Midwest Leaders Discuss Gun Violence Prevention

Updated: 01/11/2013 7:58 AM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

Law enforcement and local politicians from around our region sat down Thursday to talk about the sensitive issue of gun violence, or more importantly, how to stop it.

The Summit to Combat Gun Violence was actually planned a year ago, but it couldn't have been more timely in light of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak called the gathering a "midwest discussion" that brings "midwest values" to a national debate.

Held at the Depot Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, those assembled were a who's who of Minnesota leadership. Also in attendance: their counterparts from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and other states.

But it was hard not to focus on Sami Rahamim, whose father Reuven was killed during the Accent Signage massacre last year. "Our lives were destroyed and our families ripped apart. We hope to see some serious change in our communities," Sami said, as he took the podium during a press briefing.

Still, the focus of this summit was less on the mass shootings like Accent and Sandy Hook Elementary, and more on what leaders called "slow motion mass murder"--the gun killings regularly seen in urban areas.

Sami was entirely supportive. "It's just overlooked as, you know, that kind of thing it happens every day," he said.

Summit attendees stressed their need to be able to better trace ownership of every gun used in a crime. "When I'm at a murder scene and I'm standing with the mother over the body of her dead child, she deserves to know where that gun came from," Rybak said..

They talked about a need to move a larger law enforcement presence into locations where crime has occurred before, and then keep those officers there. According to Minneapolis Police Chief Janee' Harteau, "We know that locations are five times more likely to be predictable than people. We will look at people and places together to really identify those hot spots and keep our efforts in those areas."

When Congressman Keith Ellison spoke, he outlined three changes he'd like to see to make streets safer:

1. Reinstate the assault weapons ban, that lapsed in 2004.

2. Fully implement in-state criminal background checks so felons can't buy guns online or at gun shows.

3. Limit the amount of deadly ammunition shooters can hold in a single magazine.

The presence of so many law enforcers, attorneys and politicians in one place was an impressive show of force, but not the kind you usually associate with law enforcement leaders. And Sami, for one, was impressed.

"We want to try to save people's lives," he said, "which is really one of the most basic functions of government."

The summit attendees don't plan to release any definitive, written conclusions. They simply said they'll take what they discussed, go back to their jobs, and work toward developing some tangible proposals that they can ultimately bring to legislators.

The concepts and ideas discussed today will also be forwarded to Vice President Joe Biden as part of the national anti-gun plan he'll present to President Obama.

(Kate Renner contributed to this report.)

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com