September 30, 2022

scienceofedu

science of education

Readers Write: Guns, Minneapolis police, education

6 min read

Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.

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Though polling routinely shows most Americans want congressional action to address gun violence, Congress remains stuck in a perennial logjam largely along partisan lines.

Yet it does seem there’s one key voice missing that might help lend useful perspective to Congress. The proliferation of guns makes policing exponentially more dangerous. In turn, police perceptions of the threat from guns has been at the heart of recent police-involved shootings, including the heartbreaking deaths of Amir Locke and Philando Castile.

Police and their professional associations could play a very constructive role here in deepening understanding of how the proliferation of guns has impacted their jobs. I earnestly wonder what our local and national police professional associations are doing or will do to lead at this important moment. It would be great to see rank-and-file police using these pages and the halls of Congress to share the experiences of how gun violence impacts their jobs. Told thoughtfully, those stories might at long last help bring our communities a bit closer together on the path to a better, different future.

Robert Spaulding, St. Paul

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It seems odd that 18-year-olds are, under current law, deemed too immature to purchase beer or cigarettes. Yet they are free to buy an AR-15 and all the ammunition they can afford.

Universal background checks fail to identify gun purchasers who, though dangerous, have managed to avoid the data gatherers. An effective, bright-line age restriction on the purchase of assault weapons and ammunition would have saved lives at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Buffalo and Uvalde (and these are only the mass shooting incidents that came to mind without a Google search).

Thoughts and prayers? We’ve been praying for decades. Let’s give thinking a try.

Frederick Grunke, St. Cloud

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It is unfathomable that Republicans yet again trot out mental health as the only cause of murder-by-gun in the United States. I do not argue with the mental health crisis in our nation. A recent study showed 40% of adults suffered anxiety or depression during the pandemic, up from 10% in 2019. More than 50% of young adults had anxiety or depression, with double the substance abuse or suicidal ideation of other adults.

But Republicans have consistently voted against efforts to fund all aspects of health care, from denying expansion of Medicaid to pushing for privatized Medicare. They continue to engage the Einstein insanity principle, doing the same thing while expecting different outcomes.

If we wish to reduce mental illness, we need to fund it. If we wish to reduce military killing in our streets, we need to eliminate access to military armaments in the untrained general populace.

Mary C. Kemen, Chanhassen

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It is likely that the Texas massacre will cause a lot of public officeholders to send vociferous heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the bereaved families and to tell media outlets that such obviously mentally ill shooters must be stopped. However, those same officeholders will fail to identify the real problem, which is that it is just too easy to obtain a firearm.

There are now over 400 million guns owned by Americans. The FBI Supplemental Homicide Report for 2012 states there were 259 justifiable gun-related homicides (a good use of a gun), 8,342 criminal gun homicides, 20,666 suicides with guns, and 548 fatal unintentional shootings. Do the numbers, people! This is a lot of dead people every year for the love of guns and to protect against the possibility that the British might want to recolonize us.

Do you think we might start with the modest requirement of universal background checks for all gun sales? Is that too much to ask? The answer will be yes, it is too much to ask. If the deaths of 20 young children in Newtown, Conn., 10 years ago could not bring reasonable change at a time when the United States was a little less politically craven, we have no chance now. We all should be very, very ashamed of ourselves.

George Riedl, Minneapolis

POLICE

Liz Navratil’s excellent and balanced article (“Police transformation still unfinished,” May 25) on the efforts by our city’s leaders to transform public safety gave us several examples of incremental progress (“pockets of hope”) that deserve our encouragement. However, our city’s leaders appear to have sidelined any efforts to implement the requirements for immediate action contained in the damning report of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Mayor Jacob Frey agreed that MDHR’s findings were “horrific” and “repugnant” and required the city to do a “hell of a lot of work,” but then announced last week that negotiations over a consent decree with MDHR have been put on hold because of a disagreement with MDHR over the findings of discriminatory surveillance contained in the report (“Mpls. police talks put on hold,” May 21).

There are additional unrelated “horrific” and “repugnant” findings in the MDHR report that require immediate negotiation of a consent decree, along with three additional specific actions that must be implemented now without waiting for a consent decree — one, immediate changes to improve police accountability and oversight; two, immediate improvements to the quality of Minneapolis police training; and three, immediate provision for honest communication with members of the public, especially regarding critical incidents. Our city’s leaders should set aside the disputed findings for separate discussion, while publicly committing enthusiastically and unequivocally to complying with all other aspects of the MDHR report, including immediate re-engagement regarding the consent decree.

John Satorius, Minneapolis

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Now city government is stonewalling the police reform consent decree process with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The mayor at first said he was shocked and horrified by the department’s report on a decade of police violence and racism here. Now the city wants to stop talking about change, claiming that the Human Rights folks did not provide enough background data.

More likely is that the city wants to delay the discussion of reform until the U.S. Department of Justice finishes its report. The hope may be that the federal government will paint a nicer picture of our police than the state government did. Not likely. The feds will see the same huge problems that the Human Rights Department saw. Then we will be told to wait until the United Nations studies the cops in the city of Minneapolis.

Our city government doesn’t want to change the police. The demand for reform is a big political hot potato and they want to keep throwing it up in the air — maybe it will cool off. Or maybe not.

John Stuart, Minneapolis

POLITICAL FAILURE

I was so disappointed when Gary Marvin Davison’s recent commentary devolved from an excellent counterargument to the recent opinion piece about political primaries to another reason to instead place all of the blame on our system of public education, and particularly teacher preparation (“No, failing schools are the ‘primary’ cause of political failure,” Opinion Exchange, May 26). The latter argument is typical of his pieces and offers a tiresomely narrow perspective.

He seems unable or unwilling to differentiate preparation in pedagogy (essentially, how to teach) from preparation in content (what to teach). Anyone honestly reviewing the state’s teacher preparation standards will see that both are clearly and deeply represented. Anyone reviewing the delivery of those standards in colleges and universities will see the extent to which content standards are delivered by faculty in the disciplines and pedagogy by education faculty. Approaches like child-centered learning do not replace a focus on content knowledge but rather offer approaches to help students gain that knowledge.

Our system of public education is far from perfect and in need of constant improvements, but he does a great disservice to dedicated educators at all levels by falsely laying the blame solely at their feet.

Cyndy Crist, St. Paul

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