Local View: Tougher gun laws can save lives in Minnesota

From the column: "Gun violence is the leading cause of death for our children, having surpassed auto accidents. We have taken action to keep us all safer in our cars. We can do the same for gun violence."

Dave Whamond/Cagle Cartoons

I have written many letters to the editor over the past two decades of working to prevent gun violence. I have cajoled, begged, urged, pleaded, nicely asked, and demanded action to keep guns away from those who should not have them and are using them every day to massacre our children and innocent Americans. We are surrounded by devastating gun violence with more than 200 mass shootings to date in our country.

Minnesota has experienced its own increase in victims as the country faces the worst gun-violence epidemic in history. A young, unarmed father and youth hockey coach was recently gunned down outside of his St. Paul home trying to stop someone from stealing a car. This was the result of the corporate gun lobby’s intent to arm anyone everywhere. The cost is the loss of innocent lives.

It is simply not true that gun laws won’t matter. That is a gun-lobby myth and should not be believed. No other country has regular mass shootings and other shootings every day, because they all have strong gun laws. In states that have passed strong gun laws, gun death rates are lower than in those that have not.

If laws didn’t matter, we would have many more deaths from auto accidents. Now, gun violence is the leading cause of death for our children, having surpassed auto accidents. We have taken action to keep us all safer in our cars. We can do the same for gun violence.

Our country has more guns than people, and many of those firearms were amassed since 2008, especially during the pandemic when people seemed to think guns may help them get through COVID. The gun stores and manufacturers were delighted at the increases in sales. But guess what else happened in the last few years? The gun death rate rose to a level not seen in our history. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun death rates were the highest ever in 2021. This was also true in Minnesota, where gun death rates are at their highest in history.


Another myth of the corporate gun lobby is that more guns will make us safer and a more polite society. Does anyone believe that an armed society is a polite society? I doubt the family of the young police officer recently shot and killed in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, thought that was the case. She was shot by a drunk man on probation for sexual assault and kidnapping — in other words, someone who should not have had a gun but got one anyway, thanks to gun laws in Wisconsin that are clearly too loose.

In today’s Minnesota and today’s America, we can expect to see armed people wherever we go because we have made it all too easy for everyone to be armed. Thus, we have shootings in malls, in schools, in churches, outside of and inside of homes, and at grocery stores and elsewhere. We are simply not safer because so many people are armed.

It's the guns. It’s past time to do something about the guns. The Minnesota Legislature can stand up and do the responsible and right thing this session by passing bills to make sure all gun purchasers in the state get background checks before buying deadly weapons. And they can pass the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill to make sure guns are temporarily removed from the hands of those in crisis who could be a danger to themselves or others.

We can save lives if we have the will. Let’s do it.

Joan Peterson of rural Cloquet is co-president of the Northland Brady Chapter, working with Protect Minnesota.

Joan Peterson
Joan Peterson

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