President Barack Obama will visit Minneapolis on Monday to meet with local officials about gun violence, less than two months after the December that claimed the lives of 20 children and six school staffers.
The day trip will be the president’s first one outside Washington to discuss his “common-sense” plan to combat gun violence, introduced on January 16 and reiterated a few days later in his weekly video address to the nation (see above). The visit follows his promises to heavily involve communities in tackling this issue.
“Everything we do combines both a legislative strategy with a broad-based communications and outreach strategy to get people engaged and involved, so that it's not Washington over here and the rest of America over there,” Obama told New Republic editors in a recent interview.
The choice of Minneapolis for his first visit is deliberate. The city has more gun control measures than most American cities. Local authorities have spent years creating and refining a youth violence initiative and fine-tuned version of Minnesota’s background check for gun buyers.
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Minneapolis was also the scene to a mass shooting last September, when a man went on a shooting spree with a semiautomatic rifle, killing six former co-workers after he was fired. The man had 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
Last week, Mayor R.T. Rybak announced that he and 60 other mayors across the U.S. were examining gun manufacturers that they hire to arm police, to determine whether they are helping or hurting "common sense" gun control.
“Minneapolis is a city that has taken important steps to reduce gun violence and foster a conversation in the community about what further action is needed,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained during a media briefing last Friday. Minneapolis Chief of Police Janee Harteau and Sheriff Richard Stanek were involved in drafting the White House plan.
In January, the president called for an extension of the Minneapolis measures to be implemented nationwide: universal background checks, school safety and mental health programs, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But he faces an uphill battle in a Republican-dominated Congress that views the legislation as an attack against the second amendment.
Last month, Republican Missouri Senator Brian Nieves wrote about his severe distrust for federal government regulation, arguing that "increased gun control only empowers government and criminals...Gun control laws only disarm the innocent and weaken those who follow the law."
In an effort to curb the anti-gun rhetoric being attributed to him, the White House released a photo last Saturday of Obama wielding a smoking rifle, which they say was taken while skeet shooting at Camp David on the president’s birthday last August.
“Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas,” Obama told The New Republic, adding that “advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes.”
Listening is what the Minneapolis visit was designed for.