'REASONABLE' GUN CONTROL
Violent crime is down nationally. How do you feel about that today?
Are incidents like those in Newtown, Conn., and at Accent Signage in Minneapolis, and the deaths of a 2-year-old and of police officer Tommy Decker of Cold Spring, acceptable losses for the sake of unregulated gun ownership?
Finally, do you really believe that violent crime is down nationally because the citizens of the United States own 50 percent of the guns in the world?
The recent mass shootings at Accent Signage and in Newtown have shown us something we have not seen before. Their shooters were better at what they want to do. They were more lethal.
Toronto, a city of nearly 50 percent diversity and 2.5 million people, has about the same number of annual murders as our 400,000 residents in the fairly quiet city of Minneapolis. We in the United States have the right to the same levels of safety as any other civilized country.
I am not happy with our current level of safety.
I also don't like that the political lobbyists for the largely gun-industry-funded National Rifle Association continue to win efforts to put more guns on the street -- even though the average NRA member supports reasonable control measures and background checks on all gun sales.
It is time we all work together for a change.
TIM DOLAN, EDINA
The writer is the former chief of police in Minneapolis.
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BLAME IS NOT THE ANSWER
Sorry, Rush Limbaugh -- although I am a liberal who would like to see more stringent gun laws, I'm not blaming Connecticut on guns or Republicans. I don't know if the young man who has been named as the "evil" that visited Newtown had a developmental disorder or a personality disorder or was born a psychopath, or all three. His mother had legally obtained the guns.
I see three themes running through these shooting tragedies: a) the people involved appear to be severely mentally ill or psychopaths; b) the face of mental illness is more complicated today because our society is a lot more complicated, and c) we as a society have a lot more work to do in making good mental health care, and access to it, a priority.
As much as people complain about "Obamacare," don't forget that it allows for adults up to the age of 26 to receive mental-health care coverage if it's available under their parents' coverage. But we can do more, lots more, and we should. Let's get out of the blaming mode and into the productive mode -- consider mental-health care important for all, not just your loved ones.
NANCY DRACH, ARDEN HILLS
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VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
On the front page of a supplement in Sunday's paper are advertisements for two video games: "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" (featuring a figure dressed head-to-toe in black, holding a handgun) and "Assassin's Creed III" (I need not say more).
We are living in a society where killing is done from the comfort of one's living room sofa. Target practice occurs in one's basement. TV commercials or shoot-'em-up prime-time shows bombard us at all hours of the day.
While no one will ever fully understand what triggered the cold-blooded killer in Connecticut to commit those merciless acts of violence, we must choose to not allow this culture of killing to permeate our lives.
We must choose to hold close simple words, spoken by a simple man: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
MICHELLE SCHLEHUBER, INVER GROVE HEIGHTS
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QUESTIONS TO ASK
Given the events of this past week and the statistics on gun accidents in homes, we should ask ourselves the following:
• Do the guns in our home make us safer or more likely to have a tragedy?
• Are we allowing other family members or friends to bring guns into our home?
• Does anyone in our home have paranoia or an anger or depression problem?
• Are we prepared for the consequences of a gun accident in our home?
• Are all members of the family really comfortable having these weapons around? Are the weapons safely stored?
We adults are the ones who make our environment safer for our loved ones. What kind of a job are we doing?
JOYCE GROSS, ST. LOUIS PARK
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THE TRAGEDY AND GOD
In the days since the tragedy and evil that befell Newtown, I have heard and read comments about the event occurring because "they have taken God out of the schools." As a Christian pastor and husband of a public school teacher, I want to challenge these unfounded and often thoughtless comments.
Assuming that they come from people of faith, I wonder how they believe that the creator of the world could be excluded from some part of it through human effort. The Bible clearly affirms that God is everywhere (Psalm 139). Schools are obviously included.
I want to affirm that God is in our schools each day:
• In dedicated teachers and staff, many of whom are people of faith.
• In caring students who share their lives in many servant efforts.
• In supportive, involved parents.
When our daughter was murdered five years ago, some of the greatest evidence of faith and love came from teachers, students, parents and staff who supported us with prayer, gifts, cards, hugs and tears. Some of my wife's deepest faith conversations have occurred with fellow staff members -- in school and out.
If people are advocating public school prayer as the sign of the divine's presence, then what shape would they like that prayer to take, in whose name will they pray, and to what deity will they pray?
The challenge in public schools is to respect all perspectives. The teachers I know refrain from telling others what they should believe, but they are certainly open to sharing their personal faith outside of class when asked.
I have no doubt that God was present at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, just like every other day. When those children and staff fell, God's arms held them close. And when they died, God's heart was the first to break.
In our anger and frustration, it may make us feel better to rage. But let's choose appropriate targets that lead to constructive solutions. I trust that God will be with us in the conversation.
THE REV. ROLF OLSON, Richfield Lutheran Church, Minneapolis