U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and others expressed gratitude for new federal gun legislation at a forum in north Minneapolis on Thursday night, but the message included a reminder that there is much more to be done.
"This particular town hall is different," Omar said, explaining that the monthly gatherings rarely focus on a one or two issues. But for the first time in 30 years, "we were actually able to move legislation to combat gun violence in this country."
In a nod to the mass school shooting in May in Uvalde, Texas, the Minnesota Democrat acknowledged the legislative breakthrough "came about because of the tragedy of babies dying and everyone saying more was too much for folks. Nonetheless, it was great progress. ... This is progress that we can build on."
Omar's district includes all of Minneapolis, which continues to be plagued by gun violence and a pace of homicides this year that threatens to match or exceed last year's number. There have been 45 homicides in the city in the first half of this year. There were 97 in 2021.
The more visible attendees among the 100 or so who came to the North High School gym were members of the citizen response group A Mother's Love, which routinely sends envoys to serious and sometimes deadly crime scenes in the city.
About 10 group members held large sheets of white paper with the names of Minneapolis homicide victims in the past decade, with asterisks next to George Floyd, Amir Locke and others killed by police in recent years.
A Mother's Love founder Lisa Clemons said, "We want recognition, no matter whose gun the bullet comes from. The pain is just the same."
Panelist Sasha Cotton, director of the city's Office of Violence Prevention, said the work to counter urban violence must not just focus on gun safety legislation, which she acknowledged is encouraging.
Cotton pointed to the need for more investment in health care, affordable housing and civic groups who are trying to make their communities safer.
"We've got to put everything on the table to save our babies," she said.
Omar began by expressing outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that gave women the right to abortion. She voiced support for creating a standard of ethics for justices and encouraged impeachment of justices when necessary. Omar also repeated her call for the end of U.S. Senate filibuster rules.
"We know this decision will fall the hardest on the most vulnerable, such as women who have been abused, who are victims of incest, have been raped, those who are already struggling to put food on the table," she said "Thankfully, in Minnesota, abortion remains legal."
One of Omar's opponents in the race for Congress, Don Samuels, issued a statement as her town hall continued that said that the right to an abortion is "among the many things that Representative Omar and I agree on [as well as] tightening our laws on gun violence."
However, the statement continued, Samuels said he sees Omar as "a national leader in the defund the police movement. I will, instead, work with my colleagues and local leaders to address the dual challenges of increasing police accountability and rebuilding officer ranks with high-quality individuals who seek to serve the communities as officers — a challenge facing our city and many more across the nation."