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In our hyperpartisan climate, every aspect of public life is easily reduced to an us/them lens. The criminal justice system is not exempt. Ron Way's opinion piece on the travails of Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty illustrates this phenomenon ("A familiar arc for a reformer," Opinion Exchange, May 5). His writing in this case is a mode of political cartooning. There stands the heroic progressive reformers on one side; there lurk the primitive conservative "wolf-packs" on the other.

What I find missing in such hyperventilated abstractions is a sense of human actuality, of realism. The justice system must deal with severe tragedies and excruciating pain. I am talking about the reverberations of crime on victim's families. By marshaling all that pain under the banner of "reform," partisan hacks try to euthanize or euphemize the pain: It's collateral damage.

No one is arguing that criminal justice in Minnesota is perfect or just. Systemic reform and betterment are absolutely in order. But when a county prosecutor tries to change the system on her own, by tweaking and torquing specific cases, outrage is sure to follow: because justice necessarily involves consequences.

There must be a penalty for serious offenses. Family outrage over light sentences for crimes such as murder — no matter what the offered progressive or conservative rationalizations may be — are cries for simple justice. They need to be heard as well, through and beyond the caricatures and cartoons of our political game-players.

Henry Gould, Minneapolis


The council takes a stand

Thank you to the Minneapolis City Council for passing such a comprehensive commercial tobacco ordinance, including prohibiting price promotions and the redemption of coupons for commercial tobacco products.

Working with the Twin Cities Recovery Project for the past 21 months, I've seen and felt the effects of addiction firsthand. This is truly a gateway into addiction.

Addiction is the tobacco industry's game, and price promotions and coupons help them play it. Tobacco companies offer enticing deals and low prices to keep customers coming back for more, and it works. Studies have shown that Minnesota adult smokers who redeem cigarette coupons are less likely to quit smoking than those who don't. It is an especially effective tactic on those who are trying to quit: Receiving a "buy one, get one" or "two for the price of one" coupon might be tempting enough for them to give up their quit attempt entirely.

Nicotine addiction is already one of the toughest addictions to break. Taking the power out of these predatory coupons supports folks who want and are trying to quit as well as folks in recovery. With this ordinance, Minneapolis has taken a big step in making the healthy choice the easy choice.

Greg Lowe, Minneapolis


Safe storage doesn't infringe anything

The chairman of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, Bryan Strawser, claims the Star Tribune has ignored his organization and others opposed to gun safety measures, particularly the recently passed House safe-storage bill ("A flawed, burdensome proposal," Readers Write, May 5). I'm a careful reader of the paper and have witnessed no such slight overall — in fact, that point of view is regularly represented in both news stories and opinions.

It goes without saying that the Gun Owners Caucus opposes safe storage legislation. Its website declares its aim to stop every "gun control" effort. It also promotes "Second Amendment sanctuary counties," which refuse to enforce lawfully enacted gun measures, pronouncing them unconstitutional. This despite the fact that the Supreme Court's District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which the letter references, stated that the Second Amendment allows gun regulation in order to protect public safety.

The letter writer states that "peaceable Minnesotans oppose this proposed legislation." But, of course, he can speak only for members of the caucus.

The safe storage bill marries respect for the power of firearms with respect for life. It would mandate safe storage of a firearm only when not within the owner's reach. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, firearms are the leading cause of death in children and youth (0-24 years). "Laws reducing child access to firearms, which primarily require safe gun storage, are associated with lower overall adolescent suicide rates," it says.

Rights must be balanced. In recent decades, we have elevated gun rights over individuals' right to life, resulting in thousands of innocent people losing their right to life because they were in the path of a bullet. It's of small comfort to victims that the gun owner's rights were unrestricted. This bill would help reaffirm the importance of public safety in our society and the value of individual life.

Rich Cowles, Eagan


We all die. In my youth, I tempted this inevitability by driving too fast. Through the years, I've been rear-ended, front-ended and sideswiped. One summer day, an intruder left a hunting knife on our bed as a hint of what might have been. In his teens, my husband was nearly electrocuted.

We could all enumerate our near misses, accidents and severe illnesses. But in none of my imaginings would the presence of a gun on the kitchen counter have kept me or my family safer. I support safe gun storage.

Kathleen Wedl, Minneapolis


I'm intrigued by Strawser's math in Sunday's Readers Write page. If it is true that there are "2.5 million peaceable gun owners" in the state, that means in Minnesota we have about one gun owner for every two people of any age.

If all of these people are peaceable, why not have sensible standards on how to control access to their weaponry? If some of these people may, on the other hand, be less than peaceable, shouldn't more strict measures be put in place for the ownership of firearms?

I don't personally own a gun and don't want to have my opinions forced on other law-abiding citizens. I do have a replica sword in my house, though, which probably should be sufficient to protect my right to bear arms without needing a high-capacity magazine, bump stock or the like.

Paul Schultz, Ham Lake


Take this up again soon, please

Reasonable, compromise protections of public lands such as the designated trail provision that was in HF 3911 benefit everyone ("We, as retired DNR staff members, support trail designation," Opinion Exchange, May 1). It's not a zero sum game! When we protect the environment everyone wins. When it is degraded, everyone loses.

That this provision was stripped out of the omnibus bill at the last minute is a huge loss for all of us and our public lands.

Living in rural, northeast Minnesota, I know firsthand that the trail designation provision that was in HF 3911 for off highway vehicles (OHVs) traveling on designated, posted trails only is needed.

There are a number of snowmobile trails within a couple miles of my home. Here, it is illegal for ATVs to travel on snowmobile trails. Some trails are signed, prohibiting ATVs. Others have no signs. Signed snowmobile trails show little evidence of illegal ATV traffic (tracks, ruts, damage). Snowmobile trails that are not signed show significant evidence of illegal ATV traffic and damage. The takeaway: Signs make a difference!

I once contacted a local Department of Natural Resources conservation officer to report an ATV illegally traveling on an unsigned snowmobile trail that drove through and damaged a stream. The officer indicated that lack of signage makes it difficult to determine the individual's intent and determine appropriate enforcement action.

The 2025 session cannot come soon enough to pass commonsense legislation to protect our public lands for all recreators and Minnesota stakeholders.

Don Pietrick, Lutsen, Minn.