MN plan against gun violence needs work

Many refuse to testify against illegal arms distributors because it could put them in danger.

by Keelia Moeller

A new and timely method of gun control has gained prominence in Minnesota, and even Chicago’s police force is looking to our city for ideas.

Obviously, gun violence is an enormous issue in the U.S. But the past few months have been violent and heart-wrenching and have tested the very buttresses of our nation.

After a gunman killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., the U.S. has experienced 80 more mass shootings. Now, more than ever, we’re begging for firearm control.

Minnesota’s strategy is simple but effective: Instead of prosecuting suspects for murder, they’re charging defendants with conspiracy to buy and possess guns illegally.

If there are fewer distributors on the streets, there will be fewer guns in the hands of everyday citizens.

The trick for police officers is to identify and catch illegal weapon distributors along with interceding network connections they’re attached to.

The strategy proved its strength with the prosecution of 11 gang members in 2014, based on their possession of illegal firearms.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Paulsen summarized this new concept, saying, “If we can’t get them for the shootings, let’s get them for the guns they used in the shootings.”

While I couldn’t agree more with the notion of limiting guns on the streets, I am still wary of a few issues.

First, the popularity of Minnesota’s new strategy by other police forces around the nation is premature, especially because the new judiciary tactic hasn’t been fully elaborated.

The prosecution of illegal gun distributors relies on testimonies of those who obtained weapons illegally.

One of the main reasons illegal weapon distributors aren’t caught is because witnesses — or those who purchased illegal weapons — refuse to break their silence.

Many skirt around testimony because it can be self-incriminating, and oftentimes there are dangerous ramifications.

In order to combat these issues, those who testify should be offered witness protection by those they testify against. In addition, criminal witnesses should be imprisoned in different locales than the illegal arms distributor they identify.

Police officers could also develop tactics to secure witness testimonies.

It’s important to respond to gun violence issues with tact and with immediacy, but not if it means creating unfinished or flawed plans. Minnesota’s new strategy is a good start, but it is nowhere near perfect.

With a few tweaks, we can begin to prevent rampant, unnecessary gun violence deaths.