Obama Examines Minneapolis Violence Reduction as Gun Bill Model
Special to The Informer from McFarlane Media | 2/6/2013, 2:28 p.m.
"The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it's important. If you decide it's important. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen - Americans of every background stand up and say this time it's got to be different," said President Obama.
V.J. Smith, founder of Mad Dads, who met with the president, said though the mass shootings in suburban communities may have prompted the call for gun control, residents of inner city communities find themselves under siege daily.
"We have small massacres every day in Minneapolis and St. Louis and Detroit and New York (City)," said Smith. "We needed to do something a long time ago."
Smith said the color of the victims played a role in the reason there was little national outrage until now.
"It's (gun violence) happening to white folks now, but it's been happening to us on a daily basis," said Smith.
Mary Johnson, who said she spoke candidly with President Obama, said the president is sincere in his efforts to greatly reduce gun violence.
"He wasn't here just for show," said Johnson, whose son, Laramiun Byrd, was murdered in 1993.
Johnson reached out to her son's killer, Oshea Israel, and, eventually formed a bond with him. Together, the two travel the nation speaking on the ills of violence. Johnson and Israel are now next door neighbors.
"A change is going to happen," said Johnson. "This issue isn't going to be dropped."
In 1995, Minneapolis tallied 99 murders. At that time, political and civic leaders came together to address the issue and stem the tide of violence. In what has been termed the Minneapolis Model, a partnership was formed between police, politicians, community activists, clergy and residents in affected areas with a goal to empower citizens and end the culture of violence that was plaguing many neighborhoods. Since adopting the Minneapolis Model, crime in the city has been reduced by 40 percent according to city officials. This past year, the city totaled 41 homicides. In 2009 - a year where the city saw one of its lowest homicide totals in years, 19 people in the city lost their lives due to homicide.
"When it comes to protecting our children from gun violence, you've shown that progress is possible. We've still got to deal with the 60 percent that remains, but that 40 percent means lives saved - parents whose hearts aren't broken, communities that aren't terrorized and afraid," said the president. "If there's even one thing we can do, if there's just one life we can save, we've got an obligation to try."
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau offered their support for President Obama's common-sense proposals for ending gun violence.
Rybak and Harteau joined President Obama for the roundtable discussion that included grassroots, community and law-enforcement stakeholders in the fight to end gun violence.
"The most important thing he did was listen -- for nearly an hour -- to people who day after day, are building peace on our streets. He knows that they, and all Americans, can help everyone in Washington understand that we need commonsense laws that make all of us safer," said Rybak.