Was Charleston’s church massacre too noisy?

Gun silencer bill quietly becomes law in MN

silencer graphicThe June 17 Charleston massacre where nine persons were killed inside a church has “rekindled the debate” for stricter gun laws, says the latest Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) policy brief. But Minnesotans soon will be able to buy gun “silencers” after Gov. Mark Dayton on May 22 signed an omnibus public safety finance and policy bill that overwhelmingly passed both in the Senate and in the House during this year’s state legislative session.

SF 878 had two sections — restoring ex-offenders’ voting rights and gun suppressors. State Senator Bobby Joe Champion introduced the voting rights amendment, which initially got bipartisan support in the Senate but did not make the final version, he explained last week in an MSR interview. “Part of the thinking was that maybe there was a chance that both [amendments] could survive,” he pointed out.

Sen. Bobby Joe Champion
Sen. Bobby Joe Champion

Champion continued that the bill did not go through the normal process. “A lot of private back-and-forth” took place, and he saw the bill “as problematic.” He also hoped that Gov. Dayton would have stuck to his original stance that he would veto any gun silencer bill.

Champion also accused legislators of “caving in” to gun lobbyists: “Why would we as Democrats be pushing guns in language and legislation? What is the purpose of these silencers? We had Democrats who carried that National Rifle Association language [into the bill] and bought into it.

“The Democrats ended up getting more money in the [public safety] budget for accepting the policy language, which included the very controversial language of silencers,” Champion continued. “They tried to downplay it and say it’s not that serious. I protested and pushed back [against the gun amendment.]

“I made a motion, either privately in our meetings or publicly, to remove the suppressor language. I could’ve prevailed on that, but it was [DFL Majority Whip] Chris Eaton [representing Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center] who voted to allow it to be there. We need to hold her accountable for that.”

The MSR called Eaton’s office for comment, but our messages were not returned.

When she learned of Minnesota’s new gun silencer law, Washington, D.C. leadership strategist and former National Council of Negro Women executive director Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said last week in an MSR phone interview that any meaningful gun reform legislation has been nearly impossible due to “this powerful gun culture and lobby in this country” that seemingly has local and national legislators afraid to oppose them.

The June 18 Washington Post blog titled “11 essential facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States” pointed out that the alleged shooter in most U.S. mass killings got the weapon legally. The blog cited a 2014 Pew Research Center survey showing that “Blacks are significantly more likely than Whites to be gun homicide victims [but] only about half as likely as Whites to have a firearm in their home.”

The CFR points out that about 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns are found in the U.S., which “ranks number one in firearms per capita” among the world’s more developed nations with almost three times more guns than Norway and Canada and nearly 10 times more than Australia, Israel, the United Kingdom and Japan. Also, there are no federal laws that ban semiautomatic and other military-style weapons, stated the CFR report.

“We still have the most gun violence of any country on earth,” reiterated Jones-DeWeever. She’s afraid that the current gun reform debate won’t change things: “If we as a country won’t do anything when kindergarteners [at Sandy Hook in 2012] were shot up tremendously and their bodies were not even recognizable,” the Charleston shooting probably won’t make people want stronger gun legislation either, she said.

“Every time you turn around, there are more people out there that have deadly force and can — at any moment in time — commit horrific acts like what we saw last week [in Charleston],” said Jones-DeWeever. She pointed out that until local and national lawmakers stand up to the gun lobbyists, “It looks like it can get worse” as Americans live “each and every day [in a] crazy gun, Wild Wild West culture.”

“I’m still upset by this,” concluded Champion.

 

Information from the Washington Post and the Council on Foreign Relations was used in this report. Read more on State Senator Bobby Champion’s comments on the Charleston shooting, gun reform and other topics on the MSR website.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.