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The picture of the terrified and grief-stricken child with her hand against the window on the front page of the Star Tribune on Tuesday brought my husband and me to tears ("6 killed in shooting at Nashville grade school"). This is someone's child and could be our child. Children and faculty were gunned down in school, and the survivors will live the rest of their days remembering the trauma. Why do we continue to accept these preventable deaths as normal?
If our weak-kneed politicians don't have the will to protect the lives of the people they serve, it is time for the people to take action with nonviolent passive resistance. A national day of mourning should be declared each time, and since it isn't, we the people should declare it and stay home or, better yet, engage in peaceful public protests. Don't go to work. Don't shop. Don't go to school. If citizens of France and Israel can organize national strikes over retirement age and threats to democracy we can surely do the same over the senseless, massive loss of precious human lives. This is what we've done in the past over workers' rights and civil rights, and this is what people have done all over the world to bring about meaningful and lasting change.
Gun violence undermines our civil rights on a daily basis. Hand-wringing, thoughts, prayers? Only our actions can change this.
Martha Wade, Bloomington
Gov. Tim Walz has ordered flags to be at half-staff to honor the three child and three adult victims of the school shootings in Nashville. However, lowering flags neither honors those who lost their lives to gun violence nor will it help end this senseless cycle of death. If we are serious about honoring their memories, our legislators must pass commonsense gun-violence-prevention laws and stop hiding behind the Second Amendment. In addition, we all must talk to our communities about gun violence and teach that there are alternatives to using guns to settle disagreements. We are dealing with an epidemic of gun violence which has resulted in firearms now being the leading cause of death for children in the United States. Every day, an average of 53 children and teens are killed or injured by firearms in the U.S. If we want to honor the memories of those who died on Monday, we must do more than lower flags.
Sheldon Berkowitz, St. Paul
Friday's front page, left column, had the headline: "Wounded North High student is recovering." Same front page, right column: "State Senate panel OKs three gun bills." The online summary: "Prospects remain unclear for passage, as Republicans in the narrowly divided Senate oppose the changes." Receiving the endorsement of the Senate Judiciary Committee is "a giant victory for supporters of gun safety measures who have seen similar proposals languish for years under Republican control of the Minnesota Senate." But "A few opponents testified that the measures attempt to incrementally impinge on their Second Amendment rights and inconvenience them. One opponent sharply threatened electoral retaliation against senators who voted for the bills, and received multiple rebukes."
An athlete senselessly shot — one more statistic in this epidemic that, unlike COVID, is fully within our control.
Ellen Kennedy, Edina
Here we go again, more shootings! I am sick of it. Somehow, we have to get our conservative brethren to acknowledge we need some controls. Zero gun violence may not be feasible, but we can't continue in this way. I totally agree with assault-weapon bans, universal background checks and restrictions on people with demonstrated violent behavior and mental aberrations. Further, it's time to increase the penalties for crimes committed with firearms. I suggest doubling the maximum sentence for any crime committed while the perpetrator is carrying a firearm. The larger question remains: Do we have the will to enforce any of this? The weakness in our political leadership makes this doubtful. Meanwhile, I weep with those who weep.
Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park
Solidify companies' whims with laws
As the mom of a teenager with Type 1 diabetes and a Type 1 diabetic myself, I welcomed this month's news that the three top insulin producers would significantly lower their insulin prices.
But will these lower prices last?
Insulin manufacturers have raised prices repeatedly over the past three decades. (A vial of insulin that costs $2 to $4 to produce retails for around $275.) They have fought against the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which helps Minnesotans with emergency insulin needs. One of their patient assistance programs stated, in fine print, that they reserve the right to "rescind, revoke, or amend this offer at any time without notice." Will they have similar reservations about these lower insulin prices, too?
Two bills are currently being considered by the Minnesota Legislature that would help people obtain expensive prescription drugs like insulin.
The first (HF 348, SF 120) would cap the amount that Minnesotans with chronic conditions pay for medications and supplies to $50 per month. This would radically reduce the cost of managing these conditions well, which could help prevent more severe and expensive complications later.
Another bill (HF 17, SF 168) would lower the costs of prescription drugs in Minnesota by establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The board would have the authority to set upper payment limits for expensive prescription medications.
Instead of depending on drug companies' whims, the Minnesota Legislature can act now to support families struggling with high prescription drug costs. I urge them to pass these two bills.
Kristen Hoatson, Maple Grove
The writer is a board-certified patient advocate.
It's discouraging, but not surprising, that the organization that can afford a full-page ad raising fears about "what could happen" with Prescription Drug Affordability Boards is PhRMA (page A6 in the March 16 issue of the Star Tribune). It is especially ironic to read that the most frightening thing pharmaceutical companies can threaten is that insurance company representatives "could" be on a board making decisions about our medicines. As if our prescription medication choices are not already controlled by insurance companies!
Let's keep our eyes on the real problem here: We are held hostage by the pharmaceutical companies in this country that set prices as high as they possibly can, then sit back and reap the benefits. Every time any measure to control drug prices appears close to acceptance, they reach into their deep pockets to stoke our fears again. Decisions about which medicine is best for you should be made between you and your doctor: Absolutely! But having access to affordable drugs is essential so we can pay for the medicine our doctor prescribes. The Prescription Drug Affordability Board is a step in the right direction. Encourage your state legislators to support it!
Cindy Robinson, Northfield, Minn.
Now that we know, what will we do?
Thank you to Christopher Snowbeck, MaryJo Webster and the Star Tribune for their continued reporting on Minnesota's mental health crisis ("A family's frantic search for son's care," March 26). Snowbeck and Webster deftly managed large amounts of data to show us what we already knew: that we have exhausted the capacity of mental health service providers in this state, as well as the entire Midwest.
This information was only made accessible by a new federal law that required hospitals and insurers to provide more payment transparency. The goal of that law was to give us and elected officials the information we need to change our broken system, and in that sense I believe the law worked.
Now it will be important to see what the state, under unified DFL control and with a large budget surplus, decides to do with this information.
Joe Widmer, Stillwater