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Gun violence discussion draws big crowd

A standing room-only crowd packed the Rochester Public Library’s Auditorium on Monday night for a Post-Bulletin Dialogues event on gun violence in America.

About 150 people turned out for the 90-minute discussion moderated by Post-Bulletin Managing Editor Jay Furst. The event featured four panelists — Post-Bulletin Outdoors Editor Eric Atherton, certified firearms instructor Gene German, Rochester DFL Rep. Kim Norton and Byron GOP Rep. Duane Quam.

Norton told the crowd she is deeply concerned about gun violence and had begun working on passing gun control legislation before the three most recent mass shootings.

"These events, however, have reaffirmed the need to stop us from dragging our feet and taking appropriate actions to curb the 88 daily gun deaths, only 30 of which are homicides, in this country," Norton said.

Specifically, she talked about universal background checks for purchases, extended waiting periods for gun purchases, gun lock requirements and restrictions on open carry laws.

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Some questioned whether more laws are the answer to America’s gun violence problem. Quam said that before lawmakers look to pass these sorts of laws, they need to study whether similar provisions passed in other states have had any impact on reducing gun violence.

"When you get past the emotion of the event, you find out a lot of these things being put out there are enacted in different areas of this nation, and frankly those areas have had instances happen any way," Quam said.

Other ideas discussed during the meeting included getting rid of a congressional ban on gun violence research and prohibiting anyone on the no-fly list from being able to buy a gun. Larry Plank, a firearm safety instructor, said he has concerns about using the no-fly list to ban people from having guns. He said sometimes people’s names are improperly put on the list and getting a name removed is very difficult.

"Once you are on it to say, ‘OK, you no longer have a right to own a firearm' is ridiculous," Plank said.

Norton said she agrees that the no-fly list is an imperfect system but added, "I don't think there's anyone here that would say that we're comfortable giving known terrorists guns."

For more on the PB Dialogues event, check out tomorrow's Post-Bulletin.

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