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Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek

Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

Stanek joins gun talks with Biden, Cabinet

  • Star Tribune
  • December 20, 2012 - 10:35 PM

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said he stressed the need to screen for mental illness and talk about youth desensitization to violence at a White House meeting about gun violence Thursday.

Stanek, president of the Major County Sheriffs' Association, was one of about a dozen leaders of law enforcement organizations who met with Vice President Joe Biden and several members of President Obama's Cabinet. In the wake of a mass murder at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last week, Obama directed Biden to develop a plan to stop mass killings.

"There are a lot of broken pieces in the system; there's not one quick fix," Stanek said in a telephone interview after the two-hour closed-door meeting, but added, "Good public policy will hopefully come from this."

The sheriff, a Republican, said the conversation focused on three areas: the components of assault weapons and the parameters of the previous ban; the correlation between mental illness and mass homicides, and the violence that youths see at movies and in video games.

"A whole generation is growing up where it doesn't seem to be a big deal to go to a movie where 40 to 50 people get blown up in all heinous ways," Stanek said.

The meeting included Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Valerie Jarrett, the president's senior adviser.

Stanek said Napolitano had a spreadsheet with the most recent mass shootings, including Accent Signage in Minneapolis, which claimed seven lives, including the shooter's. According to her data, eight of the past nine involved shooters were classified as mentally ill, Stanek said.

But Stanek said national databases to check mental health and criminal backgrounds lack information and have been "inherently unreliable."

ROCHELLE OLSON

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