ST. PAUL, Minn. - Two gun debates took place at the capitol on Tuesday: the debate inside the hearing rooms and the one taking place in the halls.
"More guns are not the answer," proclaimed Donna Ness, a retired middle school teacher from St. Louis Park. She was facing a man she has never before met. "I, from a law enforcement perspective, disagree with you," he tells her.
The man will not give his name to a reporter, but says he's a Minneapolis police officer. He says his position in support of gun rights will not play well with the leadership of the department.
"Giving us more guns is not going to solve this issue," Ness tells the man in the police fleece. He listens politely, but is quick to respond. "If somebody came into your school and, God forbid, started shooting kids in the classroom, you'd call somebody to get there with a gun and put a stop to it."
"It's a pretty divided issue," observes Dennis Gauthier, a miner and military veteran from Eveleth. He's standing, a few feet from the other debate, with Dan Peterson, a farmer and military veteran from St. James. The two just met, but found immediate agreement on their opposition to tighter gun laws.
"I just don't want to lose the right to own my weapons," said Peterson.
It's a debate so divided the opposing sides couldn't seem to stay apart.
"You don't want background checks basically, you want mentally ill to easily have access to firearms," said a man who stepped into the discussion between the retired teacher and the officer. It was Bill Krause, a self-employed carpenter from Plymouth, who also identifies himself as a gun owner.
"Common sense says that we should have restrictions on a tool that is designed to kill," he tells the officer. He then blames the gun lobby for tying the "legs and hands of law enforcement." The officer again listens politely, but is undeterred. "I happen to be law enforcement and I'm a member of the NRA," he says.
In the halls of power the second amendment brought out an exercise of the first.
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