The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is currently awaiting reauthorization by the U.S. Senate when legislators reconvene in September, and concerned citizens should be contacting their senators to pressure them to approve and pass this important bill.
In April, the House companion bill passed but was opposed by 158 representatives on the basis of the inclusion of language in the bill that would close the “boyfriend loophole.” This loophole currently does not prevent people convicted of abusing, stalking and assaulting current or former dating partners from buying or owning a firearm.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women’s Femicide Report for 2017 reports 19 women murdered and five friends/family members/bystanders who intervened killed due to intimate partner violence. Ten of these homicides were due to gunshots.
Actual numbers could be far higher; however, Minnesota’s laws prohibit the Department of Health from collecting firearm data regarding lawful firearm ownership or related to an individual’s right to carry a weapon.
The pressure to protect all victims of gun violence should include changing the laws that protect perpetrators of violence. We need research to understand the extent of the issue, and we need VAWA to pass in order to protect survivors while we wait.
Emily Gustafson, Blaine
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I’ve noticed several articles lately about the identification of potential mass shooters. I was very impressed with the one written by Erika Christensen, a police officer (“I’m a cop and I’ve met the next mass shooter,” Aug. 9).
As a society, after each mass murder, we tend to go through a cultural examination searching for some method of bringing this internal terrorism to an end. But another, possibly more universal approach is to realize that all of these murderers were once part of our educational system. We as a society had access to them through our schools over a long period of time during their formative years. I would argue that a much less controversial approach would be to heavily invest in and provide all schools from kindergarten to high school with more counselors as well as access to consulting psychologists and psychiatrists.
One thing I want to make clear: Teachers are very wary about social problems that have been dumped on the schools with no resources or other needed support. Any program, to be successful, will need to come with the planning and resources that teachers will support.
The results of these interventions will probably not produce immediate results but, in the long run, be more effective and long-lasting. Of course we must also pursue other immediate steps to create some semblance of societal safety. Up to this point, most proposed solutions tend to get bogged down because of societal fears that any restrictions on personal rights will escalate into a permanent loss of freedom. This time it seems we may be able to find some middle space where people are willing to accept some reasonable restrictions to reduce public vulnerability to mass murder. Early and effective intervention may well also reduce the population that commits heinous crimes and increase the number of peaceful, responsible, productive citizens.
I think it might be worth a try.
Eddie Ryshavy, Plymouth
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I just moved here from Maine. How refreshing to have a governor calling for a strong red-flag law and background checks for all gun sales, though some resist (“Walz rips GOP on gun bills,” Aug. 8). Sadly, Maine, too, has lawmakers who block common-sense gun measures. What are lawmakers afraid will happen if we pass these lifesaving laws?
Lisa Ledwidge, Minneapolis
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I, like many people from our beautiful state, am from a family with a rich history of hunting in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I have been around hunting rifles and handguns my entire life. My father felt it critical to put my siblings and me (there are eight of us!) through firearm safety classes as early as possible — usually around age 12. We grew up with a healthy respect for the power and responsibility of gun ownership.
Today, my father and several of my siblings and nephews are all still hunters and also members of the NRA. With a family as large as ours, it’s easy to predict that we have differing political beliefs, but we do all agree on one important issue — common-sense gun laws — particularly universal background checks, red-flag laws and the banning of all assault-style weapons.
When the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment’s much-quoted right to bear arms, how could they have possibly envisioned in 1791 what damage and utter destruction to innocent Americans that a high-capacity assault rifle could do in 2019? It’s hard to imagine they would even be able to wrap their heads around the idea of “domestic terrorism.”
It makes one pause to wonder if pictures of the crime scenes at Sandy Hook or Parkland or any one of the other hundreds of mass shootings would have moved the framers of our democracy to perhaps at the very least rephrase our Second Amendment.
I, like my siblings, was raised to help others — to see the good that unites us instead of hate that divides, to be the light that’s needed in a time when darkness is fed. America is a wondrous country where differing opinions make us strong, not weak. Although we can disagree on many issues, more than 90% of us nationwide do agree on something: common-sense gun laws.
We can’t reach back in time to the Founding Fathers, but we can reach out now to our current leaders. The time to act is now.
Michelle Thimm, Anoka
Minneapolis wants to, and usually does, keep tenants in their homes
“Minneapolis filed 1,500 evictions in five years” (front page, Aug. 12) addresses an important angle on the affordable housing crisis: the need to prevent evictions whenever possible. Unfortunately, the story makes blunt use of high-level data for a bold, front-page headline and downplays important perspective that might have been helpful to readers.
The story rightly points out that the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is the county’s largest landlord. But it fails to compare our evictions proportionately to others in the eviction filing records or to put the numbers in the context of MPHA’s own scale. Last year, for example, MPHA had 9,096 late rent payments. From these, only 323 eviction filings resulted, as our staff worked diligently to help people get back on track.
Of these 323 filings, crucially, just 96 resulted in a loss of housing. MPHA works out more than two-thirds of cases even after court — something rare in the private rental market.
By focusing on filings, the Star Tribune minimizes MPHA’s extensive and usually successful efforts, to the very end, to keep people in their homes. The article also fails to note that MPHA’s income-based rent falls concurrently whenever a household suffers loss of income. Star Tribune readers should know that at MPHA, preventing evictions is essential to our mission.
The story also omits this sobering statistic: 20,000 people are on our waiting list for public housing. Every eviction is a tragic last resort. But when it does happen, another deserving family is waiting for a quality, affordable home.
Jeff Horwich, Minneapolis
The writer is director of policy and external affairs at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.
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