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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

December 31, 2018

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec. 26

Congress, codify bump-stock ban

President Donald Trump rightly acted; now lawmakers should pass a law to curb these devices.

The Trump administration was right to ban “bump stocks.”

Now Congress should confirm the sensible step by passing legislation to ban the devices, which can transform semi-automatic rifles into automatic rifles.

A bump stock was used by the killer in the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting that slaughtered 58 people and wounded hundreds of others attending a country music concert.

That tragedy was a “9/11” of mass shootings, said David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at Giffords, a gun-safety organization co-founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in 2011 while meeting with constituents.

Chipman, who served 25 years as an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said a concern with the administration ban is that “in a regulatory approach it would be subject to loopholes that the industry could work around, and it would be the subject of lawsuits.”

In fact, the Gun Owners of America filed suit against the regulation, which its executive director said in a statement “clearly violates federal law, as bump stocks do not qualify as machine guns under the federal statute.”

The National Rifle Association, long a stalwart ally of President Donald Trump, has not filed suit — yet. But it expressed its disapproval in a statement that read in part, “We are disappointed that this final rule fails to address the thousands of law-abiding Americans who relied on prior ATF determinations when lawfully acquiring these devices.”

The Department of Justice’s final rule referred to by the NRA states that “these devices convert an otherwise semi-automatic firearm into a machine gun by functioning as a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that harnesses recoil energy of the semi-automatic firearm in a manner that allows the trigger to reset and continue firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.”

The United States has a self-regulating mechanism of its own: common-sense laws passed by common-sense lawmakers. Which should mean every member of Congress should agree with the president that bump stocks and similar devices should be banned.

That this is even a debate is testament to the madness of modern-day America, in which zealots defend devices designed to get by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 that ban machine guns. Bump stocks have no practical application in hunting or any other reasonable firearm use. They’re designed to get around a law and, in the Las Vegas case, to more efficiently massacre innocents.

For too long a reasonable debate on common-sense gun legislation has been drowned out by groups like the Gun Owners of America and the NRA. And for too long some lawmakers — Republicans mostly, but some Democrats, too — have ignored the will of the American people in order to defend gun extremism (and collect checks for the campaign coffers).

An October Gallup poll attested to Americans’ desire to act on gun laws. The poll reports that 61 percent “favor stricter laws on the sale of firearms,” which was even higher than the 60 percent who said so after the Las Vegas shootings. The number peaked at 67 percent after the Parkland, Florida, school shootings in February that killed 15 students and two staff members, which The Associated Press named the top news story of 2018.

This level of support is the highest percentage in two or more decades, Gallup reported. So clearly, there can be congressional support for banning bump stocks, which even Trump, an NRA advocate, supports. Congress should codify the ban soon after it convenes in January.

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The Free Press of Mankato, Dec. 27

Fresh faces for state delegation

Why it matters: Five of Minnesota’s eight U.S. representatives next year will be freshmen.

The work of the 115th Congress is, sadly, incomplete — and with just a handful of days left, its work may remain undone.

On Jan. 3, the 116th Congress convenes. And for Minnesota, that means a large crop of newcomers. Five of Minnesota’s eight House members will be freshmen.

That hardly means the state will be without influence in that chamber. The return of the Democrats to the majority certainly boosts the stature of Reps. Collin Peterson and Betty McCollum. Peterson, dean of the delegation, will chair the Agriculture Committee. (Peterson’s sprawling 7th District includes Sibley County.) McCollum, who has represented the St. Paul-centered 4th District since 2001, figures to chair a subcommittee of the powerful Appropriations panel; the subcommittee chairs are often referred to as the House “Cardinals.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, the sole returning Republican in the delegation, may now be in the minority, but as the leader of the National Republican Congressional Committee is a significant figure in the caucus.

The five rookies won’t enjoy the influence of the veterans, but they are an intriguing assemblage and perhaps the harbinger of a partisan realignment. Four of them flipped their districts, including Blue Earth’s Jim Hagedorn, who will represent the 1st District.

In this Minnesota mimicked the national trend; rural and less educated districts (such as the 1st and 8th) went Republican, while suburban districts heavy on college graduates went for the Democrats (the 2nd and 3rd). This will be only the second time in more than 70 years that the Iron Range has had a GOP representative; it will be the first time in more than a half-century that a Democrat has represented the likes of Edina and Bloomington.

Two of the departing DFLers, Tim Walz, of Mankato, and Keith Ellison, chose to pursue statewide office instead of seeking re-election to Congress, and each won. Walz will be governor, Ellison attorney general. Another, Rick Nolan, announced his retirement from Congress before signing on to Lori Swanson’s failed gubernatorial candidacy as her running mate. The two departing Republicans, Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis, were defeated for re-election.

All deserve thanks and honor for their time in the arena, even from those who do not agree with their politics. Nolan, in particular, merits particular notice. He is now concluding his second stint in the House. In the 1970s, as one of the “Watergate Babies” class of 1974, he served three terms in the old 6th District, which at that time extended from the southwestern corner of the state up into the St. Cloud area, before losing in 1980 to Vin Weber. Thirty-two years later he was elected for the first of three terms in the 8th District.

Nolan has represented Pipestone and Grand Marais, Hibbing and Worthington, without ever winning a statewide election — truly a unique distinction.

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Post Bulletin, Dec. 31

How will new leaders tackle the issues?

Partly due to the November election, and partly due to retirements, local leadership is set to undergo a wave of changes as 2018 turns to 2019. With that come new ideas, new energy and new interest.

We’re optimistic that the fine standard of leadership set by those leaving the scene as the year ends will be maintained by the new cadre of leaders. That’s because, unlike in some places, changes in leadership here in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota tend to come in measured steps. There are rarely wild swings in character or style or politics.

At Mayo Clinic, Minnesota’s largest private employer, Dr. John Noseworthy, who has been president and CEO since 2009, will hand over leadership of the nation’s No. 1 ranked medical center to Dr. Gianrico Farrugia. It should be a seamless transition, in that Farrugia has been CEO of Mayo’s Jacksonville campus since 2015, and was at Mayo Rochester for 26 years prior to that.

The University of Minnesota Rochester got a new chancellor this year, Lori Carrell. And just last week, the University of Minnesota selected a new president, Joan Gabel. We’re anticipating a close working relationship as these new leaders continue to chart the future of the university, especially here in Rochester.

Rochester city government will get a makeover, with a new mayor, Kim Norton, replacing Ardell Brede, who served for 16 years, and two new council members. Norton has promised to be an active mayor, pushing the boundaries of Rochester’s weak mayoral system. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the factions and alliances on the city council change with new personalities in the mix.

Also in Rochester city government, new police and fire chiefs were hired this year, and it’s possible both departments could put new strategies in place in the coming year.

Two active school volunteers were elected to the Rochester School Board in November, and should add to the expertise of the citizens and former teachers already on the board. We like the board’s current makeup and trust it is ready to face the challenges of the coming year.

Finally, at the state level, Minnesota has a new governor, but Gov.-elect Tim Walz is no stranger to southeastern Minnesota. Walz has served as 1st District representative in Congress for the past 12 years. That background bodes well, both for the interests of our region, and for Walz’s determination to settle some of the rural and urban disputes that have proved so harmful to the state in recent years.

All in all, as we close out 2018, we look forward to seeing how a flock of new leaders tackles the issues of 2019.

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