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Erik Burgess, Published December 20 2012

Mayors’ coalition, including Walaker, pushes for stricter gun laws

FARGO – Mayor Dennis Walaker says it’s impossible to prevent all future mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

Walaker has been a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition since 2007, and although he owns several guns for hunting, he favors tightening gun control laws in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting that killed 26, including 20 school children.

“Would I like to see guns in the school room? Absolutely not,” Walaker said.

While the national coalition of mayors has been pushing stricter gun laws, including banning military-type weapons and high-capacity magazines, Walaker also said providing comprehensive mental health care is a critical reform.

“It befuddles me that we’re walking around with these people that are one step away from committing a major crime,” he said.

Walaker is the lone North Dakota member of the gun control coalition formed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in 2006. More than 750 mayors nationwide are now members, including those from St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth, according to their official website.

Walaker’s counterpart in Grand Forks, Mayor Michael Brown, often carries a concealed handgun. While they are close friends, Walaker said, the mayors have to agree to disagree on concealed weapons.

“I don’t think that’s what the Second Amendment was. At that time it was for hunting and things like that and for bringing food to the table,” Walaker said. “It had nothing to do with what’s going on today. So to say that Second Amendment doesn’t need some revisions, I think the debate should continue until we can find out.”

The coalition sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday, urging him to outlaw high-capacity rifles and magazines, make gun trafficking a federal crime and require background checks for every gun buyer.

“Together, we urge you to put forward an agenda that is rooted in common sense and that will make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns, and easier for police and prosecutors to crack down on them,” the letter states.

The group has started a petition and outlined their gun control policies at www.demandaplan.org.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518