I spent the morning Thursday at the State Capitol in support of two gun-control measures before the House Public Safety Committee (“State gun safety bills stall quickly,” March 2). When I arrived, the hearing room was full, the overflow room was full and the lobby was mostly full also. Waiting in the lobby, I had the chance for several interesting conversations with the gun-rights people there.

One man I talked to made several interesting points. He said that the problem in mass shootings was not with guns or laws, but with society and morality. After all, he said, “that shooter in Florida didn’t even have a father!” His ultimate solution to the problem? “We need to raise more of our sons to be alpha males.”

This is the basic reason gun violence, and many other problems in our country, are not being solved. The two sides aren’t even speaking the same language. For me, and my part of the culture, being an “alpha male” isn’t even a thing, and guns are just dangerous objects with no symbolic cultural value. I see the problem as “innocent people being shot with guns” and see government legislation as a proper part of the solution. He sees the problem as “government trying to destroy my culture,” one where everyone knows who the “alphas” are and shooting at things with guns is an important symbol of being “alpha.”

My impression from this conversation, and from the debate in general, is that the gun-rights people aren’t really interested in solving the problem of innocent people being shot. The two bills voted down by the Public Safety Committee would have been a small start toward a solution. For those of us whose priority is protecting innocent life, we need to support and vote for the politicians (almost all Democrats) working on those solutions.

Michael Schwartz, St. Louis Park

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My sister is a lifelong Texan and describes herself as a conservative and a Republican. I am proud of my Texas roots but have lived for the last 27 years in the Twin Cities and describe myself as a liberal and a Democrat.

Since my brother-in-law died last May, my sister and I have talked by phone almost daily. We tend to avoid political topics, but since the tragedy in Parkland, Fla., we have both bemoaned the loss of yet more precious young lives.

In the last two weeks we have gingerly stepped into a conversation about what we would propose for a solution for keeping children safe in schools and preventing further tragedies. Over several phone conversations, we have discovered a surprising list of ideas that we agree on:

Foremost, everybody should do their jobs competently — from reporting dangerous people to a database (as with the Air Force in the Sutherland Springs shootings), to the FBI and local authorities following up on phone tips, to parents and guardians monitoring and asking for help when needed, to students noticing and reporting dangerous behavior or threatening comments.

Next, background checks should be universal and thorough — for everyone and without exception for private sales, online sales or gun shows.

Reduce the size of firearm magazines.

Raise the age for buying and owning any firearm to 21. (Exception: Allow individuals under 21 to own and purchase a gun with parental/guardian presence and permission and with proper gun and safety training.) Allow, after a court decision, the temporary removal of guns from someone who exhibits dangerous behavior or expresses violent ideas or threats on social media.

Increase funding and access to mental health checkups and services, without stigmatization.

Allow and encourage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to do the research on reducing gun violence and make the findings public.

In certain school communities with limited available law enforcement, it may be appropriate for some highly trained school officials to be armed. However, only those teachers/staff who have had careful training and expertise, and who are willing, should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in the school. Appropriate signage should be displayed saying that trained individuals in the school may be armed to protect students and staff. (As former teachers ourselves, neither my sister nor I would have wanted or been able to fulfill such a function.)

Research the gun laws in countries with very low gun violence (Japan, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, etc.) to see if they could be transferred effectively to the U.S.

This is our list of solutions to protect our precious children as well as others. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but one that has surprised us and is still in process. So, as my sister said the other day, “if you and I — a conservative and a liberal — can agree on these solutions, then Congress — and our state legislature, I might add — ought to be able to do so also.” We agree on that, too!

Nancy Maeker, Minneapolis


But, the process …

As the new session starts it appears to be back to partisan politics as usual. When a bill cannot even proceed from committee to the floor, it is extremely unfortunate and stifles debate. But when a committee chair refuses to even allow a committee hearing on a proposal, it is partisan politics at its worst. In a democracy (republic) such as ours, it would be a welcome change to at least allow bills to proceed to the floor of the House and Senate so formal discussions of the provisions, both positive and negative, could be discussed. In order for a democracy to function effectively, all points of view should be heard and discussed.

Doug Warring, Mounds View

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What time are our legislators living in — the Dark Ages? (“MNLARS rescue gets dealt a ‘crippling’ blow,” March 2.) They must be responsible and provide funding for the MNLARS to be completed successfully. Would you leave a bridge just three-fourths built? Yes, large IT systems often go over budget, but a $10 million investment now will help the state complete the implementation of the system, so all residents of Minnesota can access a robust system for many years into the future.

Ann M. Pennington, Minneapolis


Don’t ever denigrate the idea of remedial courses in college

In his March 2 commentary of graduation rates (“No, learning isn’t booming. Our diplomas are still a fraud”), former Minneapolis schools Superintendent Peter Hutchinson discusses the meaning of changes in the number of students taking remedial courses in college.

In high school, I took and passed a course called “College Algebra and Trigonometry.” When I went to college, I started out with algebra and trigonometry. In college. I was glad I did. While high school (with all the distractions and my underdeveloped brainpan) laid a decent foundation, it was later in college where, with focus improved and sightly advanced maturity, the learning stuck.

Lifelong learning is a journey marked by certain imposed milestones should one choose to follow and recognize them. I am not saying that graduation rates, standardized testing and other measures are unimportant, but let’s meet the students where they happen to be, and that includes students who are not as “prepared” as others. There are many factors that determine a student’s level of preparedness, and we should continue to work on those that impact it negatively, but let us not chide the student for continuing to build upon a foundation that started earlier in life.

Dennis Williams, Minneapolis