Mpls. police chief, Hennepin sheriff meet with Obama about guns

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 29, 2013 - 7:37 AM
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President Barack Obama pauses as the press leaves the room as he meets with representatives from Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs Association in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, in Washington, to discuss policies put forward by President Obama to reduce gun violence. From left are Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau and Hennepin County Minnesota Sheriff Richard W. Stanek .

Photo: Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press - Ap

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Minneapolis Chief Janeé Harteau, Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek and a handful of other law enforcers met Monday at the White House with President Obama and other senior administration officials to discuss gun violence and other issues.

Also attending were the police chiefs from three communities that suffered mass shootings last year: Aurora, Colo., where 12 were killed at a movie theater in July; Oak Creek, Wis., where six died in a Sikh temple assault: and Newtown, Conn., scene of the most recent mass tragedy that left 20 first-graders and six school staff members dead.

In Harteau's city, seven people died in a workplace shooting at Accent Signage in September.

The meeting began with Obama speaking for about three minutes about the importance of hearing from law enforcement leaders about gun violence and what the nation's communities need from the federal government to counter mass shootings.

As he begins his second term, Obama is asking Congress to pass an assault-weapons ban, universal background checks and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Harteau and Minneapolis Assistant Chief Matt Clark are in Washington attending the Major Cities Chiefs and Major County Sheriffs' Associations legislative meetings.

Harteau is one of six chiefs and six sheriffs meeting with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Stanek is president of the sheriffs' association and is attending in that role.

According to a summation released by the Sheriff's Office, Stanek began the meeting by expressing concerns that he has raised before: "Gun control alone will not solve the complex problem of guns and extreme violence. We have an access problem. Individuals with severe mental illness should never have access to guns." Stanek also urged Obama to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

"Most Americans believe we have all the disqualifying information and are relying on us to keep prohibited persons from buying/possessing a gun," the sheriff said. "However, NICS is voluntary. Not all states participate, and that needs to change." Twelve 12 states actively upload court mental health records to NICS.

In December, Stanek met Biden as a member of the law enforcement working group on extreme gun violence in the wake of the Newtown massacre.

Ahead of Monday's meeting, the White House released a statement from the president that read, in part, "We recognize that [gun control] is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country.  And Joe and my Cabinet members who have been involved in this have been on a listening session over the last several months.  No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials.  They are where the rubber hits the road.

"And so I welcome this opportunity to work with them; to hear their views in terms of what will make the biggest difference to prevent something like Newtown or Oak Creek from happening again.  But many of them also recognize that it's not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it's also what happens on a day-in-day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day." 

Along with gun violence, topics on the table include immigration, data sharing and homeland security.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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