Enhancing school safety: a multi-pronged approach

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At least 879 Minnesotans have died as a result of criminal gun violence since the Rocori High School shooting in 2003 and 21 known threats have been made against Minnesota schools in the last three weeks. It is impossible for students to learn and succeed in environments where they are worried for their safety.

Governor Dayton introduced his Safe and Secure Schools Act this week, including $15.9 million in needed investments to enhance safety for students, teachers, parents, and staff at schools throughout Minnesota. The proposal would increase school funding by $18 per student to help school districts and charter schools identify and assist students who exhibit red flags to school officials and law enforcement and make needed safety improvements to school facilities. The Safe and Secure Schools Act also proposes an additional $5 million for school-based grants to provide mental health services to students who need extra support.

The Governor also spoke on the importance of passing sensible gun violence prevention legislation, including criminal background checks, clarifying the existing ban on bump stocks, funding public health research, implementing age restrictions on assault rifles, and enacting a Red Flag Law to remove firearms from those who pose a serious threat to themselves or others.

One proposal included in the governor’s list was the subject of a press conference this week with DFL legislators and Protect Minnesota, an organization working to prevent gun violence. The bill would raise the minimum age to possess a semiautomatic military-style assault weapon from 18 to 21. Exceptions would be provided if the person is a member of the armed forces, a peace officer, has been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or is under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian. Current Minnesota law prohibits those under 21 from possessing a pistol but allows 18-year-olds to possess assault weapons. This bill would correct that inconsistency. (SF 2959)