Police Chiefs Brian Payne in Princeton and Todd Quaintance in Milaca oppose stricter gun controls.
The two police chiefs gave those viewpoints during interviews last week, nearly a month after a massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which the shooter left 27 dead before taking his life.
The massacre, another in a long line of mass shootings in schools in the past dozen years, spurred a renewed debate on gun control. The debate has proponents on both sides voicing strong opinions on gun control.
Police Chief Payne sides with those who he says “are putting the blame squarely where it lies,” the people who use the weapon in a criminal act, “and not the weapon they choose to use.”
Payne, who has been an instructor since 2005 of a firearms class required to apply for a permit to carry a handgun, said that he has seen the number of people signing up for that class double from what it normally would be this time of year. The reason? “It’s because people are afraid their Second Amendment rights will be infringed upon by the government,” Payne said.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the rights of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Some in Congress want to grab on to what they think are solutions, such as banning certain types of rifles and restricting the size of cartridge magazines, but those measures would not reduce or stop shootings, Payne continued.
Some politicians propose those restrictions to get votes, Payne suggested.
Persons intent on shooting people will seek “victim rich” environments, such as places that ban firearms or don’t have a police presence, Payne said. He pointed to the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, in 1999, as an example of two shooters entering that school when the school’s security officer was not there.
Payne, asked if he thinks certain people should be authorized to have firearms in schools, said that is “up for discussion.” He said he talked to a Princeton School Board member about his offer to volunteer to give some school employees gun training. But that can’t happen because of the law banning guns in the schools, Payne noted. Payne said he would favor laws that would allow people who meet training and other requirements to be able to have a firearm in places like schools, malls and theaters.
One gun violence-prevention measure Payne recommends is to keep firearms in a gun safe with an electronic lock to keep unauthorized persons from getting at firearms in a home.
Quaintance, besides being Milaca’s police chief for more than a year, has been a volunteer firearms safety instructor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since the late 1990s.
Asked for his stance in the gun control debate, Quaintance said: “I’m not a person who believes gun control laws will prevent all the shootings that are happening.”
People intent on doing harm with firearms will still be able to get them through taking firearms that others have obtained legally, and that is the case in so many shootings, Quaintance explained.
Ideas for stemming the violence?
Quaintance recommends that all of the community, including school-age persons, “get involved” in trying to prevent violence with firearms, because law enforcement can’t by itself be the answer. If someone has any indication that a shooting will or might take place, they should immediately contact law enforcement or another authority figure that can act on that information, Quaintance said.
“If the community understands the importance of reporting potential behavior, then law enforcement and the community can come together to prevent,” he said. In most mass killings, someone had an indicator that it was about to occur, “and people should not stand by quietly and let bad things happen to other people.”
Quaintance said there are many factors that come together that result in massacres and therefore believes that “no one thing stands out that could prevent the thing from happening.
“I don’t believe anybody woke up and said, ‘This is going to happen today,’” Quaintance said. It is instead, a case of something building up over time within the shooter.
But Quaintance, who was a school liaison officer for two K-12 schools (nine years at Milaca and one year in Isle), said he does support schools having these officers.
Besides adding another element of security, it offers an extra opportunity for students to communicate with an officer and possibly make a disclosure about something, Quaintance said.