Latest School Shooting Renews Push For MN School Safety Bills
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Another deadly school shooting Friday put renewed pressure on Minnesota lawmakers to address gun violence just as their session neared adjournment, with lawmakers focusing on funding school security improvements and not stronger gun laws.
Anti-gun violence activists urged supporters to turn out for a rally Saturday on the Capitol steps, an event that was already planned before an attack at a Texas high school left 10 people dead. About a dozen high school students didn't wait, gathering Friday afternoon.
"It just sadly didn't shock me because nothing's been done," said Azu Esparza, a sophomore at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights. "It just gives us more reason to continue coming here and using our voice."
"If the legislators in that building right now won't meet our demands, then come November, we will find people who will," said Jorge Esparza Hernandez, a senior at Sibley.
Republican leaders said they might move quickly to pass a $28 million bill for security upgrades at Minnesota schools. The additional funding had been part of a plan since the session began in February, but the GOP had planned to include it as part of a broader budget package before a midnight Sunday deadline.
But Gov. Mark Dayton pressed lawmakers to send him a separate bill, and hours after the latest deadly shooting at a Santa Fe high school, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said the Legislature might pass such a bill later Friday.
The money allows schools to fund security upgrades like bulletproof glass and secure doors as well as increase mental health resources. House Speaker Kurt Daudt said the money would go out to schools at the same time no matter what approach the Legislature takes.
The issue of gun violence sparked numerous demonstrations at the Capitol in the aftermath of February's attack at a Parkland, Florida, school that killed 17.
Lawmakers — mainly Democrats — pushed for stricter rules including expanded background checks for gun buyers, including private sales. They also introduced legislation to create a legal path for families and police to take guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
But the bills fizzled in the face of concerted opposition from Republicans and from some rural Democrats. Sen. Ron Latz, a Democrat from St. Louis Park who pushed for gun law changes, said Republicans have made clear they won't support the bills.
"So far, the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate have completely blocked anything to consider gun violence legislation," he said Friday. "Do we have to wait until there's a slaughter in Minnesota?"
Gazelka said the latest shooting points to a need for making school buildings safer. He said he doubted further background checks would have stopped it.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in past weeks that any bills restricting access for gun buyers have no chance of passing this year. He and other top Republicans said the focus should be on improving school security instead. Their $28 million plan would fund things like bulletproof glass and doors as well as improved mental health resources.
Lawmakers have until midnight on Sunday to pass any bills.