Mayor Rybak, Milwaukee Mayor Barrett Host Daylong Regional Gun Summit
Around 100 participants from upper Midwest share best practices, opportunities and challenges in first-of-its-kind gathering, one year in the making
January 10, 2013 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Mayor R.T. Rybak and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, along with the cities of Minneapolis and Milwaukee, hosted a daylong Regional Gun Summit in Minneapolis today.
Around 100 participants from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri — mayors and city council members, police chiefs and officers, prosecutors, state and federal law enforcement, judges and advocates, along with national researchers — shared information, best practices, common opportunities and challenges in the fight against gun violence and illegal guns.
The Regional Gun Summit, one year in the planning and funded by the Joyce Foundation, marked the first time that such a broad cross-section of regional officials and law-enforcement professionals have come together in person to coordinate strategy around gun violence.
“In the midst of a robust national debate, we are gathered here for an honest conversation to search for Midwestern solutions that are rooted in Midwestern values,” Mayor Rybak said.
“We are not new to this work and did not wake up to gun violence yesterday. We have been planning this groundbreaking summit for a year and have been engaged in the fight against gun violence for many years,” Mayor Rybak added.
“Everyone in this room is a freedom fighter,” Mayor Barrett added. “We are fighting for the freedom of a grandmother to sit on her porch and watch her grandchildren play safely. We are fighting for the freedom of people to attend church on Sunday morning safely.
“Unfortunately, people’s freedoms are being taken away by gun violence and those who commit it,” Mayor Barrett continued. “We are fighting to win those freedoms back.”
After Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn presented comparisons of gun-crime data in their cities, summit participants heard presentations by: Dr. Mary Kay Balchunas, chaplain at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; Dr. Christopher Koper of the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University in Virginia; and Dr. Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Dr. Balchunas put a human face on the “far-reaching impact of illegal guns” by sharing the story of her son Jay Balchunas, a Wisconsin Department of Justice special agent who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2004. “The trajectory of a bullet goes far beyond the initial piercing blow,” she said. “It is a watershed moment beyond which nothing is ever the same.”
Sami Rahamim — son of Reuven Rahamim, the owner of the Minneapolis company Accent Signage who was killed along with five other people in a mass workplace shooting on September 27, 2012 — also spoke of the of how gun violence can “destroy lives and tear a family apart.” He called for concrete action against gun violence.
Dr. Balchunas praised Gun Summit participants for being “committed to making change in a society that has become impervious to violence.” Dr. Balchunas said that research clearly shows that the multi-agency and community partnerships that the Summit embodies have proven to be among the most effective solutions for ending gun violence and the culture of violence.
Dr. Koper agreed, presenting extensive data about the effectiveness of multi-faceted, collaborative, evidence-based policing in combating gun violence. His presentation focused in particular on the effectiveness of policing “hot spots” in the effort to curb gun violence, and on particular tactics that have proven empirically effective in reducing gun crime around hot spots.
Research shows that about half of all crime occurs at five percent or less of street blocks and addresses. The focus on hot spots in policing was pioneered in Minneapolis.
The approximately 100 summit participants also engaged in vigorous discussion on policing strategies to stop illegal guns, the need for policy changes at the state and federal levels, and mass-casualty incidents in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
As to next steps, Mayor Rybak and Chief Harteau agreed with summit participants that even deeper collaboration between policy makers and law-enforcement partners, along with honest collaboration with community, is critical to making further progress against gun violence. “This is not the beginning of a process,” said Mayor Rybak. “We have made great progress over the years, but there is much more to be done.”
However, cooperation and information-sharing between federal officials and local law enforcement is limited by federal law. These limits hinder local law enforcement by forcing them to rely on old data, and make it more difficult to answer the critical questions, where did the gun come from and who is arming our kids?
Summit participants also called on Congress to finally confirm a permanent director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and to fully fund the agency.
“Nothing should stand between law enforcement and the need to make communities safer,” Mayor Rybak said. “People in this room could literally save many more lives if politics in Washington would get out of the way and let us do our jobs.”
As another action item, summit participants also identified the need to gather more information about the mental-health challenges that people who are buying guns or seeking gun licenses may be facing, and the need to set higher mental-health standards for gun permitting and ownership.
Mayor Barrett agreed. “We need to take every reasonable step to keep guns out of the hands of people who cannot legally possess firearms. That means loopholes should be closed, and existing laws should be enforced.
“We also need to ask whether assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines are contributing to the unacceptably high level of gun violence,” he added.
As to the possibility of constructive federal action against illegal guns and gun violence, Mayor Barrett said, “The fundamental difference between past moments and now is that President Obama has said that this is a priority. I am more confident than I have been in decades that this issue will be debated fully and honestly.”
Mayor Rybak concurred. “The only way that we can guarantee that nothing will happen is if we assume that nothing will happen.”
Mayor Barrett concluded, “If we speak with one, loud, powerful voice for the changes we need, we will fashion a solution that all Americans can be proud of.”
Among those the Regional Gun Summit attending were:
· U.S. Senator Al Franken (by video)
· U.S. Representative Keith Ellison
· U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, Minnesota
· U.S. Attorney James Sentelle, Eastern District of Wisconsin
· Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety Mona Dohman
· Micah Hines, Office of Governor Mark Dayton
· Kansas City Mayor Sly James
· Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte
· Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie
· Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm
· Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman
· Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek
· Ramsey County Attorney John Choi
· Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom
· Saint Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith
· Washington County Attorney Pete Orput
· State Representative Joe Mullery
· Retired Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan
· Mayors, police chiefs and deputy chiefs, state and federal law enforcement, policy makers, prosecutors and advocates from cities and suburbs around Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, as well as national researchers and experts in gun violence
A full list of participants is available upon request.
Published Jan. 10, 2013