MINNEAPOLIS - More than 70 law enforcement officials from six states attended a Regional Gun Summit in Minneapolis on Thursday.
The one-day meeting included police, prosecutors and politicians aimed at gathering strength for changes in the nation's recent and on-going gun violence.
"What drew us together initially was the slow motion mass murder that is taking place in the major cities in America," said Edward Flynn, Milwaukee's Chief of Police. Flynn commented on the need to spend attention on gun violence in cities and rural areas alike.
During the meetings, participants heard presentations by gun violence experts including Dr. Christopher Koper, Ph.D. of George Mason University. Koper explained the conclusions of much of his research and the research of others. He commented that gun buy-back programs, widely used by some cities, have not worked to reduce crime or gun violence. The programs, said Koper, attract people who are "low risk" at gun violence, like seniors.
"We did see some evidence of significant under-utilization of some gun laws and some potential strategies that agencies can use to attack gun violence," said Koper. "Penalties for many gun crimes, particularly for things like illegal possession, illegal carrying, even illegal sales, tend to be treated very leniently in state courts.
Increasingly, police around the country are turning to federal prosecutors to put more teeth into some of their gun enforcement efforts."
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak co-hosted the summit with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Both called the meetings "powerful" and "honest."
There was no one document produced by the summit, only the understanding that those attending could be unified in their feeling that some change was needed.
Rybak indicated his support for a more open flow of information between local and federal police.
"When I am at a murder scene and I am standing with a mother over the body of her dead child and she deserves to know where that gun came from," said Rybak. "It is wrong for a Congressman in Washington to somehow believe that they should prevent that mother from having that information."
Mayors from Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri also attended the summit, as did police chiefs from Minnesota and Wisconsin and representatives from Illinois and New York.
Frank Cownie, the Mayor of Des Moines, called for more background checks for gun purchasers.
"I do not want to change the Constitution or the Second Amendment, but what I think we want to do is have that community discussion, how can we protect our people?"
Also attending and speaking were two persons who have felt the pain of gun violence personally. Mary Kay Balchunas of the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin lost a family member, who was also a police officer, in 2004. Sami Rahamin lost his father, the founder of the Accent Signage Company of Minneapolis, in the mass shooting there in September.
"It (the summit) has been powerful in the sense to see that they really do, at the core of this, they care about the stories of individual people like me and Mary Kay who have had our lives destroyed, our families ripped apart due to gun violence," Rahamin told the Summit.
Rybak noted that many of those attending would be in the nation's capital in coming weeks to "lobby" for various gun violence curbing measures, including banning assault weapons.
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