Last week, I dropped my son off at elementary school. Like all parents, I just wanted him to have a good day at school and come home safe. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.
But recently, 17 people in Florida didn’t come home from school to their families: they were killed in a horrific act of gun violence. Their families’ nightmare is still unfolding.
It has hit all of us hard. We can all put ourselves in the place of a loved one of someone who faced that terror. It hits me as the dad of a fifth-grader and a high-school student. It hits me as a former high-school geography teacher and football coach, when I think about the geography teacher and the coach at that school who gave their lives so that their students could keep theirs.
In the tough week since then, I’ve listened hard to students, parents, law enforcement, teachers, sportsmen and survivors of gun violence, in every corner of Minnesota. And while they have different perspectives, I’ve heard them all say one thing loud and clear: This. Needs. To. Stop.
We can’t accept mass shootings becoming the status quo. We can’t accept the shootings that don’t generate headlines, either. And we can’t accept one more day of thoughts and prayers from our elected leaders that lead only to more inaction.
I say this as someone who has handled guns my whole life: I’m a lifelong sportsman and a 24-year-veteran of our military. I say this as someone who grew up in a rural area and lives in greater Minnesota, where hunting and guns are part of so many people’s lives, including mine. And I say this as an elected official who has received A ratings and campaign contributions from the NRA in the past.
I’ve never been a member of the NRA, but I know many gun-owning Minnesotans still think of the organization as it was when I was growing up: as an advocate for sportsmen and women that held gun-safety classes. Today, though, it’s the biggest single obstacle to passing the most basic measures to prevent gun violence in America — including common-sense solutions that the majority of NRA members support.
That’s why last fall I donated all the NRA campaign contributions I’ve ever received — $18,000 — to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund that helps the families of those injured or killed while serving our nation in uniform. I won’t accept NRA contributions for my campaign for governor. In fact, I expect the NRA to spend millions trying to defeat me.
I’ve taken heat on this issue in my campaign for governor, so I want to set the record straight: I’ve supported common-sense reforms in Congress for years. I’ve repeatedly voted in favor of universal background checks, “no fly, no buy” legislation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding for research into gun violence. I voted against concealed-carry reciprocity. I’m a cosponsor of the bill to ban so-called “bump-stocks” that convert semiautomatic rifles into automatic rifles.
On all those votes, I have been diametrically opposed to the NRA.
As Minnesota’s governor, I’ll fight for common-sense solutions to end gun violence that the majority of Minnesotans and NRA members want.
I’ll fight to pass universal background checks, which the Legislature has been unable or unwilling to do for too many years. I’ll fight for the Gun Violence Protective Order that would let family members or police ask a court to keep someone from possessing firearms if that person poses a significant danger. We’ll fund public research into gun violence. We’ll have an honest discussion about mental health without stigmatizing people. And after listening hard to Minnesotans, I support an assault-weapons ban.
Minnesotans want common-sense solutions to ending gun violence, and they want them now. They’ve had it, and I’ve had it, with the years of obstruction and inaction.
They’ve also had it — and I’ve had it, too — with the mistrust and fear that has divided Minnesotans who have much in common on this issue.
To finally come together to end gun violence, we’ll need a new approach. We’ll need to build a coalition we haven’t seen before: rural, urban, suburban and exurban folks; gun owners and gun-violence survivors; hunters and advocates and police officers and the young people who are stepping up right now. We’ll need a coalition of folks of good faith who haven’t seen eye to eye but respect the different ways of life in every corner of our state.
That’s how we get things done in Minnesota: We come together. As a hunter, sportsman and veteran with a lifelong respect for guns, as a resident of greater Minnesota, a teacher, and a dad who just wants his kids to come home safe, I can and will bring together that coalition to end gun violence, preserve our ways of life and ensure that everyone gets home to their families safe.
Tim Walz, a Democrat, represents Minnesota’s First District in the U.S. House and is a candidate for governor.