Amid a fierce debate that followed the Connecticut school massacre, President Obama will visit Minneapolis on Monday afternoon as he moves beyond the White House to sell the nation on his plan to fight gun violence.
No agenda for the meeting has been made public, though some of those who will attend said they expect the roundtable discussion, which will be closed to the public, will cover some of the president's plan and lessons learned locally. Among those attending will be Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.
The group will meet at the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operations Center at 4115 N. Dupont Av., in the midst of a neighborhood traumatized by abundant illegal guns. The center is just four blocks south of the spot last summer where 5-year-old Nizzel George was shot to death in his home in a gang dispute. Last year, police seized an average of one gun every day in the Fourth Precinct (north Minneapolis).
"Minneapolis is a city that has taken important steps to reduce gun violence and foster a conversation in the community about what further action is needed," the White House said in a statement. "President Obama will visit with members of the community about their experiences and discuss additional steps that can be taken at the federal level to reduce gun violence."
News of the president's pending arrival in north Minneapolis cheered Cecelia Marr, 18, who lost her boyfriend in a shooting in the summer of 2011. Keontrell Govan, 18, was killed when two 17-year-olds caught him in an alley and shot him in the head.
"We've got more kids with guns on the street than officers nowadays," she said. Marr said that she fell into a depression after Govan was killed, saying it crushed her, but that her plans to graduate from high school next year and head to an out-of-state college to study medicine brought her back.
"I'm just trying to change for the positive," she said. "It might take time. I know we can do it."
De'Arreon Robinson, 22, said he hopes the president's visit brings change to the street gangs he used to run with. Now a counselor in north Minneapolis who talks kids off the streets, Robinson said kids need to learn that the gang life will lead them to jail or the graveyard. Guns, he said, are just too easy to get.
The visit amounts to Obama's first on-the-road pitch of his plan to curb gun violence.
The plan, announced last month, includes 23 executive actions, including directing federal agencies to study the causes of gun violence, to making more information available for background checks, to enhancing efforts to prosecute gun crimes. The plan also includes hoped-for legislative action, from requiring background checks on all gun sales, to reinstating a ban on high-capacity magazines, to reauthorizing and strengthening the expired 1994 assault weapons ban and to strengthening penalties for those who sell guns to criminals.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747