ST PAUL, Minn. — At a Wednesday morning press conference, Ramsey Co. leaders acknowledged recent gun violence ranging from children getting caught in the crossfire to the mass shooting at 7th Street Truck Park, where a woman died and 15 other people were hurt in October last year.
County attorney John Choi, board chair Trista MatasCastillo and public health director Sara Hollie also highlighted violence prevention efforts, including a 2016 initiative to provide free gun locks with no questions asked.
"Recent research that involved interviews of gun-owning parents and their children found that 73% of children under the age of 10 knew exactly where their parents had stored their guns," Hollie said.
"Everyone who chooses to own a firearm has a responsibility to avoid needless tragedies," MatasCastillo added.
Immediately after the press conference, county officials began to deliver a new supply of 1,000 locks to 12 distribution sites. The locations were recently consolidated from a previous list of sites.
"There's 50 in here," public information officer Dennis Gerhardstein said while delivering 50 locks to the County Service Center at Metro Square. "Any time you run out, just shoot me a note."
As county leaders appear to do their part, they're asking state and federal lawmakers to pass stronger safety measures, including reducing access to assault-style weapons and requiring background checks on private gun sales.
It comes the same week a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators unveiled framework for a package of gun control measures.
"There's dysfunction, I think, in Washington D.C. and so nothing has passed yet," Choi said. "The things that are in there are very — they're not like major things. They don't address the whole gamut of things."
Choi pointed to proposed red flag laws, which would allow authorities to temporarily remove guns from people showing erratic and violent behavior. While 19 sates already have such legislation in place, Minnesota does not.
"It's kind of a national solution by incentivizing states to do it but states still have to do it," he said. "And let's think about Minnesota. We've also got dysfunction up there at the State Capitol, where things just don't seem to happen. I don't understand how we have this huge public safety and justice crisis that's right at our doorstep and the Democrats talk about A, B, and C, and the Republicans are talking about X, Y, and Z, and nothing happened around the issues of trying to make sure that all communities are safer, that we have a better version of justice. They all went home."
Choi went on to acknowledge that Minnesota put a resolution of competency program in place.
"Which was huge," Choi said, "but that was it."
County leaders also called for more investments in mental health services.
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