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Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


Regarding the killing of three Burnsville first responders, writers ask a common question: "Why?" We have created an environment in recent years where distrust and disdain for law enforcement is acceptable and, by some in leadership positions, even encouraged. The only people some of our prosecutors are interested in bringing criminal charges against are cops. And we ask, "Why?" Political and even some law enforcement leaders equivocate in their support for officers for fear of alienated noisy constituents and advocacy groups. Some even wish to abolish police all together. Still we ask, "Why?"

Our current law enforcement staffing crisis is a reflection of this culture. Where there were once as many as 100 applicants for each police officer position, there are now often fewer qualified applicants than unfilled positions. And we ask, "Why?" Motorists around the metro area slap "Resist" bumper stickers on their vehicles, and we ask, "Why?"

I know the vast, though mostly silent, majority of residents in our communities support our first responders. I have experienced the satisfaction and the pride that support engenders. Anyone still wondering, "Why?"

Phil Larsen, Dayton


In addition to asking, "How did the shooter get his guns?" (Readers Write, Feb. 21) we also need to ask how was this shooter able to shoot and kill two law enforcement officers and a paramedic. These deaths did not occur because these three individuals were walking down the street and didn't know that an armed individual was waiting in the bushes to ambush them; this was part of a domestic call where law enforcement had been on scene hours before the shooting, during which time the officers should have been well aware of who the individual they were dealing with was and his past record. Yet somehow they were either placed or placed themselves in harm's way, resulting in their deaths. And again, not just one individual, but three individuals, not including the one who was wounded. It would appear that "procedure" was not followed, and I only surmise this because I can't recall hearing of other similar situations in this country, where a lone individual was able to take the lives of three civil servants in this manner. If procedure was followed, it needs to be changed. I look forward to the after-actions report, which I hope will be used by law enforcement department across the country to learn from.

Bret R. Collier, Big Lake, Minn.


Another tragic shooting and this time the victims were four of our dedicated and brave Burnsville public safety personnel. How ironic that the shooter had previously petitioned the court to regain his lost right to own a gun saying that he wanted to protect himself and his family. Fortunately this court knew better. It is a myth perpetuated by the gun lobby that a gun in the home has protective benefits. The opposite is true. Countless studies have shown that individuals in a home where a gun is present are at higher risk for accidental injury and death and also suicide and homicide. Another myth, that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, was also busted by way of this tragic shooting: Three trained and armed police officers could not stop just one armed civilian and were actually injured or killed.

If safety is really the goal, guns are not the answer. We must reduce the number of guns on the streets.

Lisa Weisman, Minneapolis


The tragic loss of two police officers and a firefighter/paramedic by a convicted criminal in possession of a firearm underscores the fact that laws are not effective controls of human behavior. The letter writer of "How did the shooter get his guns?" (Feb. 21) is grossly misguided and advanced illogical thoughts. His constant refrain to have "effective gun safety laws" is a talking point that is long on merit but short on reality. What is your definition of "effective" and to what extent are you willing to go?

The shooter, Shannon Gooden, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with a firearm in 2008 and was denied in his attempt to restore his gun possession right in 2020. We might assume if he filled out an ATF form 4473, a background check would "deny" him the right to purchase. Consequently it would seem logical that Gooden bought his guns off the street — already an illegal act despite the new law. Are we so clueless to think this law will stop any illegal gun sale? Maybe, if you are a Democratic legislator. The writer asks if "anyone monitors" those banned from possessing guns? Just how would that occur, given the presence of a document chock-full of rights called the Constitution? More importantly, prosecuting attorneys routinely dismiss or plead down gun-related charges in order to obtain a conviction. As a result, the presence of a firearm doesn't enter into the sentencing phase of a conviction. Is it time to take that option off the table?

Two women filed separate orders for protection (OFPs) against Gooden alleging severely abusive and assaultive incidents chronicled elsewhere in the local media. One was dismissed for failing to appear in court and the other dismissed for lack of proof. In my previous law enforcement experience, I can vouch this happens all too frequently. Further, OFPs are not guaranteed protection because the offending party can violate them at any time. Unfortunately, petitioners all too often violate their own OFP order.

So the emotionally charged letter writer and his "effective gun safety law" crusade is well intended but ill informed. Shaming legislators and their voter base into passing more laws directs blame in the wrong direction. After all, laws are just words on paper. Legislating human behavior must pose serious consequences to be effective. Until we understand that, these incidents will continue to occur.

Joe Polunc, Waconia


Monday's issue of the Star Tribune was filled with the news and tributes to the three first responders who lost their lives in Burnsville. Particularly appropriate was the editorial tribute to them and the reminder of the other eight incidents in our area in which law enforcement officers were killed or wounded ("More pain for those who protect, serve," editorial, Feb. 19). Then the editorial asked the question, "Don't expect to be able to fully answer the question that will be asked again and again on behalf of those who died: Why?" The answer is so obvious: There are too many guns in America, especially of guns some people should not have. What can be done about it? Again, the answer is so obvious. It is more than background checks and red-flag laws. It is safe storage of guns, registration of gun owners, mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns, prohibiting "ghost" guns and "switches" that turn handguns into machine guns, mandatory training to own a gun, raising the age to own handguns and banning of assault weapons. Each of those laws, as is proven statistically again and again in states around the country and in countries around the world, reduces gun violence. When will our legislators, both Minnesota and national, have the courage to do what so obviously needs to be done?

Robert Kriesel, Stillwater


Alabama's life ethic, revealed

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen embryos, created through in vitro fertilization, are legally children and thus protected.

It appears that this court has acted on the belief that human life is sacred and should be protected from the moment of fertilization.

On the other hand: Since 1976, Alabama has executed 73 people. As of June 2018, Alabama had 175 inmates on death row, the fourth-highest number in the U.S.

Looks like life is dispensable for those embryos that end up on misguided journeys in life(?!).

Larrie Reese, Shoreview