I know this subject has been overhashed, but one more opinion: The government can and needs to control weapons (not just guns) and make our schools safe. But it is up to us adults to take back the control of our young people. Connect with them; find out what’s going on with them. Don’t rely on others to do it for you. Quit your complaining about the government not doing its job. Look in the mirror for a while. I’ve seen it over and over when I volunteered with a youth program and as a reserve police officer.
Lance Loveland, New Hope
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In response to our country’s worsening gun-violence epidemic, I want to reference two sources. A commentary last week in the New York Times by Michael Ian Black, “The Boys Are Not All Right,” makes the case that “America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us.” Linked to that is the book “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst,” by Robert Sapolsky. His book chronicles our neurobiological underpinnings of behavior. He refers to genetic studies linking a mutation affecting frontal cortex functioning that triggers violent behavior in adult males, but only if they have had stress and chaos in their early years. If they are raised in a loving, supportive environment, the mutation is not manifested.
I serve on the State Leadership Board for Nurse-Family Partnership, and this Thursday, home-visiting programs will be represented at the State Capitol to emphasize the huge impact that evidence-based home visiting has on outcomes in people’s lives. There are many necessary changes to be made to decrease gun violence, but looking to the first years of a boy’s life can lift us all to a better place.
Stacy Walters, Minneapolis
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Setting aside Fourth Amendment and social-media privacy concerns, I would like to submit the following suggestions for preventing acts of domestic terrorism, particularly gun violence in public schools:
If surveillance by artificial intelligence (AI) or artificial general intelligence (AGI) could be deployed on social media and the internet at large, it could analyze social-media content, including private accounts, and develop threat profiles for every city in the U.S.
It could identify individuals on social media who might be prone to acts of violence, do psychiatric diagnoses and predict criminal behavior without human assistance. The only time a human would need to look at the data would be when AI red-flagged a person or group for investigation. All the metadata could be masked for privacy until there was probable cause to investigate.
Also, AI could monitor internet search behavior and post warnings to individuals. For example: “Individuals who search for this type of information tend to be prone to violence. The Department of Health and Human Services records all such searches.”
This might discourage violence-prone individuals from feeding their fantasies online.
Finally, weaponized surveillance drones are the obvious answer for school security. Drone patrols would be much more effective than human security guards. They could easily neutralize a shooter without having to put a human guard in harm’s way. Just ask the military.
Eric Auburn, Spooner, Wis.
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I am so proud of our students who are letting their voices be heard about gun violence in St. Paul and throughout the nation. It’s so wonderful to see them exercising their First Amendment rights and learning about the political process. There are a few lessons, however, I believe these young people should learn to help them now and into the future.
One, just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true. Two, just because you want it doesn’t mean you’ll get it. Three, just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they are wrong. The world, as we know, doesn’t always go the way we want it to. Learning these life lessons is the beginning of understanding, acceptance and growth.
John M. Lee, St. Louis Park
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There is a lot of discussion about broadening background check laws to help prevent another tragedy such as the one in Parkland, Fla. Here in Minnesota, the law requires a “permit to purchase” for the purchase of either a pistol or an assault weapon such as an AR-15. The permit is valid for one year, and requires a chief of police or sheriff to check state as well as federal records of convictions for felonies, certain crimes of violence and mental health commitments. However, the Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had none of these convictions or commitments.
Another law in Minnesota, a permit to carry a pistol, requires a sheriff to check for convictions and commitments, but allows the sheriff to consult with local police departments for other records that would be relevant in determining an applicant’s fitness or lack thereof. The sheriff then has discretion as to whether a permit should be denied or granted. While this applies only to a permit to carry, the background investigation in this case would likely have stopped Cruz from getting the assault rifle, at least from a federally licensed firearm dealer.
So, I am suggesting this latter investigation of an applicant who wants to purchase either a pistol or assault weapon. I also support universal background checks, such as at gun shows, where I have purchased both a pistol and an assault weapon without any background check.
I am not anti-gun. I write this as a lifelong hunter, military veteran and retired career peace officer.
Jerry Dhennin, Minneapolis
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In the “Gun laws in Minnesota” sidebar to the Feb. 20 article “In Minnesota, advocates look to Legislature for changes,” it was stated that “Minnesota does not require background checks for private sales of weapons between individuals.
This is true, but incomplete.
Minnesota Statute 609.66, subdivision 1f makes it a gross misdemeanor for someone other than a federally licensed dealer to transfer a pistol or assault weapon to an individual without performing one of the background-check procedures established by Statute 624.7132, if the transferee uses the weapon in a crime of violence.
A background check isn’t mandated, but selling a gun without doing one exposes a person to significant risk. Enough so that in every private sale I’ve ever seen offered in Minnesota, the seller mandated that the requirements of 624.7132 be met.
Jeffrey Dege, Minneapolis
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Thank you for the Feb. 17 article “AR-15 rifle is a mass killer’s go-to weapon.” Like every soldier, I carried an M-16 when I served in Vietnam. When training at home, we never were allowed to carry our M-16 off base, in order to protect civilians. We were never issued live ammo except at the firing range. Our gunnery officer always said, “This is a weapon of war. There is no place for this weapon in civilian society. If I catch you with this weapon off base, we will throw you in the brig.”
Congress passed the “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” on Sept. 13, 1994, and President Bill Clinton signed it the same day. The ban prohibited the manufacture for civilian use of certain semiautomatic firearms. The law was allowed to expire in 2004 when George W. Bush was president. Since 2004, millions of AR-15s have been sold.
As a farmer, I always have a small rifle to protect other animals from coyotes and skunks. I have a good habitat on my farm for deer, ducks and pheasants so hunters can enjoy hunting. There is a place for guns in our society, but there is no place for assault rifles sold to civilians.
Jim Nichols, Lake Benton, Minn.
The writer is a former state senator and state commissioner of agriculture.
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I’m sure many citizens don’t realize that most semiautomatic hunting rifles use an ammunition magazine that can also utilize a magazine that can hold up to 30 cartridges. That means that there are at least several dozen hunting rifles that fall into this category, other than the AR-15 (which is not the best weapon for hunting, in my opinion). I’m also sure that there are several tens of thousands of these magazines in the hands of the public at this time. How do you control this situation? Magazines that hold 25 or 30 cartridges are also available for semiautomatic handguns. Another issue to address. As you can see, “gun control” is not a cut-and-dried issue in the U.S., depending on your definition of a “gun” or “magazine.”
Choose wisely, friends.
Chuck Koegl, Brooklyn Park
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Gun owners argue that they should not be punished with restrictive legislation because of the irresponsible acts of a few bad actors. That’s like saying that we shouldn’t have to go through security lines at the airport because of the irresponsible acts of a few bad terrorists. Sometimes we have to work together for the common good.
In the quest for gun-control legislation, the NRA is not the enemy! Like a defense attorney, the NRA is just doing its job, which is to aggressively represent the expressed interests of gun owners and gun manufacturers. The NRA’s clients are our friends and neighbors that surround us, friends and neighbors who financially support the NRA. In addition, the opposition to gun-control legislation comes from the gun and ammunition manufacturers who profit handsomely from our culture of violence.
Our friends and neighbors who are supporting the NRA are motivated by six main things: Their passion for the weapons. Their love of hunting. Their passion for shooting. Their anxiety. Their fear. And their paranoia. The Second Amendment is just the package they carry these things around in.
What we need to say to gun enthusiasts in legislation is that they can own as many military-grade weapons, and as much ammunition as they want, so long as they are securely stored, operated, bought and sold, at federal certified public and private shooting ranges, in individually owned gun safes. Such legislation would eliminate the fears of gun enthusiasts that their weapons of war will be taken away from them if they operate them responsibly within the law.
In exchange for this inconvenience for gun enthusiasts, the public will feel much safer. The public will feel like their friends and neighbors have acted responsibly. The gun enthusiasts and the public at large should, under these conditions, be united in their outrage for people who possess these weapons of war illegally.
John A. Mattsen, New Brighton
The writer is a retired federal law enforcement officer.
MINNESOTA TAX POLICY
Already complicated (not ‘pretty simple’), and getting more so
In a Feb. 18 commentary, Peter Hutchinson and John James alerted us about increasing our state tax as a result of the recent changes in the federal tax law (“For Minnesota, federal act is a hard one to follow”). While their comments referred to 2018 taxes, many of us who itemized medical deductions are already paying more with our 2017 tax return. The federal guidelines allow medical deductions that exceed 7.5 percent of our adjusted gross income, but Minnesota allows only 10 percent, increasing our taxable income.
I also disagree with the authors’ statement that “Minnesota income tax is pretty simple to figure.” With schedules M1NC, M1M, M1LT, M1A and more, with worksheets for individual lines and for lines within the worksheets, filing the Minnesota tax return is quite convoluted.
Lobbying in Minnesota must be lucrative, with more than 20 credits listed on Schedule M1M alone. Why can’t the credits be listed on the main form M1, the way it is done on federal Form 1040?
With the urgency of fixing the problem in time for the 2018 returns, I suggest that we don’t leave this to our legislators, but to a special committee — one composed of citizens, professional tax preparers and former and current employees of the Department of Revenue. This committee will not be distracted by other legislative demands and should bring us a new tax system that conforms to the new federal law. Perhaps, even, will streamline the various credits and associated schedules.
Hanna Hill, Plymouth
Just a little thought experiment on the compensation math
In regard to Lori Sturdevant’s Feb. 18 column about Tim Pawlenty (“How a governor could get a sequel”), why would a person “walk away from his $2.7-million-per-year gig as CEO … of the lobbying arm for the nation’s largest banks” to run for governor of Minnesota for a salary of $127,629? Who will reimburse him for his financial loss? Just askin’.
Ann Hanna Walsh, Minneapolis
BOOKS AND THE CURRICULUM
Does one truly learn empathy or merely cling to what’s loved?
D.J. Tice ironically misses the point in his column about “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and empathy (“At least keep these two books as part of your personal curriculum,” Feb. 18).
Both books center on a young white protagonist realizing the insanity of American racism. For generations, they have helped lead young white readers to the same realization.
But as a Duluth teacher pointed out in the original article about his district’s decision to remove those books from the curriculum, student demographics are changing. For a classroom full of students of color who experience racism in their daily lives, the lessons of these books are redundant.
By insinuating that Duluth’s decision is based on the hypersensitivity of students or parents, and insisting on universalizing the experience of white readers, Tice shows a failure of the empathy he claims to have learned from the works themselves.
Ben Weiss, St. Paul
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A Feb. 18 letter writer complained that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a “white-savior” narrative. In some sense, maybe. But the fact is that Atticus Finch did not save Tom Robinson, who was convicted. He was not the “savior.”
That Atticus could not overcome the social convictions of that time and place has been to me the greatest strength of the work.
John Sens, Newfolden, Minn.
A full accounting is always a better accounting
The Feb. 18 Variety article “Intersecting passions,”about a Minneapolis man who has dedicated his life to the legacy of photographer Edward S. Curtis, was most interesting, and familiar. I read Paisley Rekdal’s book “Intimate” last year in which she describes Curtis’ project and passion. But she also includes the story of Curtis’ translator and guide, Alexander Upshaw, a Crow Indian, who worked alongside Curtis for many years. No mention of Upshaw was made in the Feb. 18 article. According to Rekdal, Upshaw brought Native Americans to Curtis to be photographed and played a key role in translating. The subjects were paid to sit for the photograph sometimes wearing costumes provided by Curtis. I concluded from Rekdal’s book that Curtis and Upshaw were a team. Thus, when reading the Feb. 18 article I felt like it was similar to telling the story of Lewis and Clark and not including Sacagawea. Rekdal’s book is a fascinating read and also has many photographs taken by Curtis.
Betty Hartnett, Wayzata