(MINNEAPOLIS) — President Obama took his plan to overhaul the nation’s gun laws on the road to Minneapolis on Monday, making a public push for lawmakers to act in a state where efforts to reduce violence are showing “that progress is possible.”
“We may not be able to prevent every massacre or random shooting. No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there’s even one thing we can do, if there’s just one life we can save, we’ve got an obligation to try,” Obama said, as he stood flanked by local law enforcement officials at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center.
The president highlighted the strides the city, once nicknamed “Murder-apolis,” has made to stem gun violence, including a push for stricter background checks for gun owners and efforts to prevent people with mental health issues from acquiring a gun.
“We’ve identified gaping holes in the background checks,” Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek told ABC News. “When we run the background check for you to purchase or acquire a handgun… if we say, ‘It’s okay. Nothing comes back,’ you should be good to go. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not. And it’s really become what is America’s dirty little secret about these background checks.”
The president did not announce anything new in his speech. Instead, he urged hesitant lawmakers to come together and take “basic, common-sense steps” to reduce gun violence. While portions of Obama’s far-reaching plan, such as universal background checks, have broad support, others, including a ban on some assault-style weapons, face staunch opposition on Capitol Hill.
“We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something,” Obama said.
The president’s visit to Minneapolis, his first trip outside the Beltway to tout his sweeping gun proposals, comes four months after a mentally ill man open fired at a local business, killing six people and himself in the deadliest workplace shooting is the state’s history. The shooter’s family had tried to get him help but failed.
Since then, law enforcement officials and lawmakers have sought to improve the state’s background-check system and to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, efforts that have gained the attention of the Obama administration.
“When it comes to protecting our children from gun violence, you’ve shown that progress is possible,” Obama said.
Minneapolis has tackled such issues since gun violence peaked in the mid-1990s. After a surge in youth violence and homicide, the city launched an initiative in 2008 to provide more resources for at-risk youth and help rehabilitate those who had already committed crimes. On Monday, Obama credited the program with helping to reduce by 40 percent the number of young people injured by guns.
“I’m a realist. I’m a 30-year working cop. I come to the streets every day,” said Stanek, who has been advising the president in recent weeks. “People need to stay at the table. People need to keep hammering away and do the fixes that we suggested….Even if it’s piecemeal and baby steps. Sometimes when you take the whole pot, gun control, mental health, all of it together, sometimes you are not going to be very effective.”
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