We are looking at the bodies of 17 more children and their teachers lying on the floors of a school. Certainly, there isn’t one among us who does not regard this as a recurring tragedy. Yet somehow we have done and continue to do nothing. Our deep divide over what constitutes the right to bear arms keeps any solution at bay.
Judge Learned Hand once wrote that there are no simple solutions to complex problems. Indeed, we face a multifaceted problem. The truth about these tragedies is that they begin with our lack of safety nets and adequate care and concern for the mentally ill, the disenfranchised, the emotionally disturbed members of our society — be they young or old. The threat we face does not come from the outside, but from within our society.
It is the hallmark of an advanced civilization that it cares for the well-being of its individual members as a matter of course — providing for both their physical and emotional needs, recognizing in this care the basic value of common human decency.
Clearly, the evidence is before us on our schools’ floors. We have failed. Yes, we must address the gun-control issue, not despite our differences on this subject but because of those differences. We must also, however, look at the character of our current society and ask ourselves the tough questions that cut to the bone of who we are. We are witnessing that those we scorn as unworthy of our care have nothing to lose.
Marjorie Rackliffe, Hopkins
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Much has been written about protecting our children against the danger, wounds and deaths from gunfire while attending school. Every time some lunatic attacks a school, we hear the same arguments for and against gun control. I wish to join the chorus. Here follows my plan to protect our kids.
First, replace every entry door to the school. Every door shall be a heavy, bullet-resistant steel door. Each door shall be built with an internal “crash” bar to allow students and staff to exit in the event of any internal emergency, such as fire. Each door shall be accessible from outside only during the school day entry time. After students enter (within a stated and known time period), the doors shall be locked against outside entry. Every door shall have an external camera protected by bullet-resistant shielding. Anyone wishing or needing to access the doors during school hours must contact a trained school employee via a speaker activated by pushing a button at the door. The school employee must identify the individual wishing access with a series of questions to determine the qualification of that individual to enter. The trained employee may be one of the following:
• An armed active duty or retired policeman.
• An armed retired and qualified military person.
• An armed, trained school employee.
At the end of the school day, when students are departing the building, one of the above trained, armed individuals will precede the students outside to ensure no “snipers” are awaiting the departing students. I recommend this trained, armed individual wear a Kevlar vest at this time.
Will this plan cost a lot of money? Sure it will. How much is your child worth?
Curtis Zumwinkle, Maple Grove
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We’ve written letters, signed petitions and pleaded on the phone to our elected officials for sensible gun laws, to no avail. The only thing that might have immediate effect is for parents and teachers to boycott schools until gun laws are changed. Why should anyone have to enter a dangerous place, wondering who will be the next victim? Why should we keep sending our children and teachers into harm’s way? Desperate times call for desperate measures! Unfortunately, this is not on option for most people, but it would have the most impact.
Martha Wade, Bloomington
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It is what we do not hear — it is what is not said by our elected (I am loathe to say) leaders. What we have heard repeatedly — it is sad, so sad; that boy is evil; teachers will have to do more; we send our thoughts and prayers and those poor kids — seems disingenuous and thin. We do not hear plans to mitigate school shootings.
They say: “Gun laws don’t work!” Really? Then stop making immigration laws, tax laws, harassment laws and drug laws!
You were elected to be lawmakers. If laws do not work, then we do not need you.
Roger A. Mahn, Plymouth
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I am not afraid of immigrants. I am not afraid of ISIS. I am not afraid of Al-Qaida. I am afraid of an American with a gun.
Mary K. Adriaens, Wayzata
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On Thursday, I called the D.C. office of U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen. I identified myself as a constituent, the mother of three children who attend public schools and a substitute teacher in those same schools. I said it’s time to stop with the “thoughts and prayers” and do something about guns.
The person on the other end tried to end the call, but I asked him to take more specific notes about policy measures I would expect the congressman to take, including ending the loopholes in gun-buying laws, retracting the concealed-carry reciprocity that he should not have voted for in the first place given Minnesota’s relatively strong laws and sending back contributions from the National Rifle Association so that he frees himself up to actually work on this problem.
I asked for my notes to be read back so that I’d be sure the message went through correctly. The staffer said, “You are in favor of stronger gun control.” I said: “Wait a minute, I gave you more detail than that.” He hung up on me.
Paulsen’s staffer hung up on me, a mom and teacher devastated by Wednesday’s news of a school shooting. And a constituent. He. Hung. Up.
Anne Holzman, Bloomington
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As a resident of Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, I’ve elected to receive e-mail updates from U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer concerning issues he considers important to his constituents. These e-mails regularly espouse his concern for the sanctity of life and also the need for enhanced vetting of potential immigrants as a safeguard against criminal behavior. When I asked the staff member who answered the phone when the congressman would be introducing legislation for “enhanced vetting” for gun purchases that may help protect the sanctity of the lives of schoolchildren, I was told the situation was being “monitored.” Yes, monitored.
There is only one word for such negligence and inaction. Cowardice.
Todd Embury, Ramsey
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Polls have long shown that the majority of Americans want common-sense gun controls — closing the gun-show loophole, more extensive background checks, limiting rounds in a magazine clip, rejecting armor-piercing bullets, etc.
The principle of common-sense gun control had long been embraced by Democrats and the Minnesota DFL.
But that principle was neatly and conveniently set aside when Minnesota Democrats made U.S. Rep. Tim Walz their caucus vote leader in the gubernatorial race. The same Tim Walz who gladly accepted money from the NRA and who proudly touted that organization’s A-plus rating.
If Walz has evolved on gun control — if he really feels the outrage of his fellow Americans — he should use his remaining months in Congress to reflect his evolution and reject everything the NRA now stands for. Failing to do that, he remains part of the problem and should not receive the DFL nomination.
Wes Davey, St. Paul
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If you feel the NRA is at the root of our firearms issue, join it. For $35, you can have a say in its policies.
Just imagine what changes could take place if hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens had a vote on the distribution of funds to their supporting congressional delegates.
Dan Wilkinson, Minnetrista
Editor’s note: The full range of responses to the Florida shooting could not be accommodated in the space of a single day’s Readers Write column. Additional letters will appear in the coming days.