Editor's Note: The story below is a Hennepin County Sheriff's Office press release.
Today, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek joined Minneapolis residents and law enforcement leaders in a roundtable discussion with President Barack Obama to discuss guns and extreme violence. Among the reasons for President Obama’s visit was to highlight why Minneapolis and Hennepin County have sustained overall reductions in violent crime in recent years and to look for solutions to further reduce gun violence.
As a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment, Sheriff Stanek talked about how the problem is one of access.
“Gun ownership isn’t a privilege, it’s a right guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Sheriff Stanek. “We have an access problem; people already prohibited by law from owning or buying a gun should never have access to firearms. We shouldn’t impose on the rights of law abiding citizens to try to solve this problem. Gun control alone will not solve the complex problem of guns and extreme violence.”
Sheriff Stanek emphasized the need to improve the current background check system to ensure all court records containing information that would prohibit someone from purchasing a gun under current law are actually entered into the system nationwide. This position, along with several other suggested reforms, have been adopted by the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Another solution that can be pursued is to improve access to appropriate care for the mentally ill.
“We know that the mentally ill are no more likely to become violent than the general population, but when mental illness is untreated there is an increased risk of violence,” said Stanek.
In Hennepin County, we book nearly 38,000 people into the jail annually with an estimated one-third suffering from mental illness.
Since 2006, there has been a 37% reduction in violent crime (rape, robbery, murder, aggravated assault) in Hennepin County. The Sheriff attributed this reduction to effective partnerships with police agencies countywide and a partnership with the County Attorney’s Office that have focused resources on violent crime. An increased use of technology, enhanced use of forensics, and collaboration with other agencies have been critical to crime reduction.