Schneider: How Minnesota can start to address gun control

Minnesota legislators should address gun control on a state level by regulating gun shows and AR-style semi-automatic weapons.

Ellen Schneider

There was yet another mass shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day. A 19-year-old man named Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle — a weapon he obtained legally — and brutally murdered 17 people including students and school staff. 

This tragedy was received by the another fierce debate over gun control. These arguments are ones we’ve all heard before. Republicans wag their finger at the left for politicizing a catastrophe in the interest of their own agendas, and liberals make empty emotional calls to action in the absence of tangible policy prescriptions. The one thing that they seem to agree on is that there are “no words” to describe such an atrocity. But there have to be conversations. 

You will never convince me that the recreational use of fire arms ever trumps the public safety of those in movie theaters, churches, elementary schools, concerts, night clubs and malls.

It is legal to own semi-automatic rifles, like the one used by Cruz, in Minnesota. AR-15 rifles were originally designed for the Vietnam War. They were somewhat revolutionary in that they were incredibly fast and easy to reload with little kick-back, so you could fire dozens of rounds in seconds. Put simply, it was designed to be deadly. AR-style assault rifles have had an appearance at almost every major mass shooting. Despite this, you can still go out and buy your very own in Minnesota, at the ripe age of 18, while you must be 21 to purchase a handgun. 

To be frank, there’s no excuse for this. If you’re feeling persecuted because your hobby involves rifles created for warfare, find a new one. Minnesota should carve a new path and set an example for more realistic gun control laws.

While Minnesota did attempt to institute a ban on assault rifles in 2013, the legislation ultimately failed following fierce backlash from concerned gun owners all over the state. Legislators like Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, opted for a less divisive approach, and turned their focus to universal background checks, citing more popularity among constituents. However, this proposal was also passed over. Shocker, I know. 

You’ve probably heard of the “gun show loophole” which allows citizens to buy and sell firearms without a background check or identification at gun shows and online. Despite the significant number of gun purchases that go unchecked, and the overwhelming citizen support of universal background checks, this obviously sensible approach was continually squashed by gun enthusiasts like former Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center.

Our current law concerning background checks are almost laughable, considering the ease with which someone could circumvent them. Gun shows and online sales often attract a myriad of people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to purchase guns, like domestic abusers, felons and the mentally ill. Universal background checks are a must. Not only should we be trying to enforce restrictions on private sales, but we should simply ban gun shows all together. As it becomes increasingly clear that what we’re facing is a crisis, events that promote the selling of arms without even the most basic of restrictions aren’t risks we should be willing to take. 

While guns are a large part of our Midwestern culture, we need to realize that this issue goes far beyond the recreational use of firearms. We have been dubbed the mass shooting generation. This issue is ours to address.