Greg On the Issues
Reducing Gun Violence
When I told my neighbor that I was running for the Minnesota Representative position as a DFL candidate, his face went white, and he said, “Don’t take away my guns!”
I know that’s been a familiar rumor. But it simply isn’t true. No one will be coming to your house to confiscate your guns. It simply won’t happen.
However, we have a problem in this country with mass shootings. And ours is the only country where this happens. I will never “just get accustomed” to school shootings. We need to have some simple, common sense gun laws that will reduce mass shootings. No law will ever eliminate all the shootings. But we can reduce those shootings with some simple legislation, including:
- Expand background checks, to cover the loopholes such as gun shows, internet purchases of guns, etc.
Raise the age of gun purchases to 21 (several of the recent mass shootings have been perpetrated by 18- and 19-year-olds.
- Reinstate the ban on assault weapons. These are weapons who’s only purpose is to cause maximum kills in the shortest time. I would support an optional (not mandatory) buy-back program for those gun-owners who would like to sell their assault rifles back to the government.
- Prohibit people who have been convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun. Minnesota already has such a statute, but about half of states do not.
- Ghost guns are firearms that are assembled-at-home. They do not have serial numbers and background checks are not required. These are showing up at crime scenes with increasing frequency. We need to be proactive about making sure these guns are traceable and regulated, before the problem gets worse.
With a few common-sense laws, we can reduce the number of mass shootings—and protect our children.
Almost every household has dealt with mental illness in some way. Almost everyone knows someone who is dealing with depression, anxiety, bi-polar, or any number of mental illnesses. About 25% of the population is currently living with a mental illness.
Stigma is still a huge problem. The average person with depression will wait ten years to get professional help. Ten years! Some people will never seek help—even though medications and therapy are highly effective. We need to talk about it until the stigma ends, to educate and reduce the misconceptions about mental illness. For example, there is still a myth that those living with mental illness have a higher likelihood of violence—even though we know that those with mental illness are no more likely to commit an act of violence than anyone else.
Community interventions to increase mental health and reduce consideration of suicide are very effective, if they are intentional and coordinated. As a representative, I’ll be in a position to listen to local leaders and encourage these efforts in our communities.
Since the beginning of 2020, Covid has been with us. It has killed more than a million people in the United States, and more than 13,000 in Minnesota. A friend of mine had most of the members of his family die of Covid.
It is impossible to know what will happen next with Covid and all its variants. Vaccines and boosters have greatly reduced deaths from the virus, but no one can predict the next twist or turn.
One thing is sure: this will not be the last pandemic threat! We need to make sure we are ready next time with quick vaccines and medicines, and also public health measures. We can take steps now to help get control of future pandemics.
We have a wonderful, beautiful diversity in this country. People of all shapes, color, backgrounds, and sexual identities. However, people who are considered “different” are often harassed, bullied, or assaulted. For example, a third of transgender individuals have been physically or sexually assaulted because of who they are. More than half of transgender individuals have considered suicide because of unrelenting harassment. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) individuals face enormous challenges, obstructions, harassment, and violence because of who they are. Many are forced out of their own homes when they identify as part of the LGBTQ community. Many are left homeless or in poverty.
I want to make Minnesota a place where people can thrive, no matter who they love, or how they identify, or who they want to marry.
We need to educate everyone about these issues. We need to increase the number of medical doctors who are trained in trans health care. We need more therapists and social workers who are trained in LGBTQ issues. We need to make sure the dangerous and debunked practice of conversion therapy is fully prohibited in the United States (it is partially banned in Minnesota).
Finally, we who are cisgender (we identify with the gender we were born with) and heterosexual need to sit and listen to LGBTQ community, to learn their struggles and their joys, their obstacles and their hopes, their pains and their promises.
These are difficult times. I was recently in the grocery store to pick up some items, and I saw an elderly lady in a wheelchair staring at the price labels for the produce. I asked, “What do you think of these prices?” And she looked up at me, her eyes welling with tears, and confessed that she didn’t know how she was going to make ends meet.
We have a lot of financial insecurity among us. Some work but are not paid a living wage. Some are retired on a fixed income. Some families have been devastated by medical expenses. We need better safety nets!
This might include:
- More food shelves
- State revenue surpluses returned to those who need it most
- More social workers and non-profits working in financial and food insecurity
- Better public transport
- More options for free or low-cost health care
- Find more options for safe and affordable housing.
The Problem with Government
Most people know the answer here: The problem with government is polarization.
Many republicans think the democrats hate America and are actively working to destroy it. Many democrats think the republicans are conspiracy nuts who are full of fear and rage.
When we view the other side in such extreme terms, we can’t reason with each other or talk with each other. We get closed off, and the lack of communication makes the polarization worse.
The answer? Listening.
I recently went door knocking, and decided to go to an area that was heavily republican. I wanted to hear their stories, their concerns, and their struggles. People shared with me, and I shared with them. Did I change anyone’s political orientation? No, probably not. But I did give them reasons not to be afraid of democrats. At least this democrat.
I think that’s how change starts—listening to people. Not listening to jump on them with a counterargument, but to listen with curiosity. People have stories, and those stories are powerful. Meeting and hearing each other, one on one, is where change happens.
Critical Race Theory
Critical Race Theory is a topic that has been taught in law schools. It refers to how legislation, practices, and policies can harm people of color. The practice of redlining (building freeways through black neighborhoods rather than white neighborhoods) is an example of Critical Race Theory. Redlining and other such practices show that racism can be embedded in legislation and policies.
Critical Race Theory has been taught in law schools. It is not now, nor has it ever been taught in K-12 schools.
However, history is taught in K-12 schools. Slavery, the colonization of the Americas, the taking of Native American land, and post-Civil War Jim Crow laws, are examples of topics taught in public schools. These topics are absolutely vital for all of us to understand. And yes, these topics will make people uncomfortable. I hope they make us uncomfortable! That’s the point! We have to learn our history, not only to understand how we got here today, but also to ensure that we don’t repeat the worst parts of our history.
One of the biggest threats to our way of life is climate change. It’s not something that will happen suddenly—it’s not a switch that is turned on and suddenly we have climate devastation. Climate change is a slow-rolling catastrophe. There have always been droughts, but we are slowly getting more and more. There have always been hurricanes, but they are slowly increasing in size and ability to do damage. More floods, more heatwaves, more superstorms, more desertification, more invasive insects, more glaciers melting—are all symptoms of the problem of climate change.
The primary driver of climate change is carbon in the atmosphere, which absorbs more heat from the sun. The primary driver of carbon in the atmosphere is burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas.
We need to quickly pivot to wind and solar energy, phasing out fossil fuel use as soon as possible.
Otherwise, we will be in for a very different world.
The Supreme Court’s rollback of Roe v. Wade is a heartbreaking and ominous sign.
The flurry of new laws in Republican states that prohibit abortion under any circumstance, even in situations of rape or incest, have taken health care decisions out of the hands of women and their doctors, and put those decisions in the hands of the government.
Two groups that are disproportionately affected by these laws are women of color and low-income women. These rulings continue to do injustice to those who have already been marginalized by society’s unjust systems.
And what’s next? What other human rights will be rolled back? It is a dangerous precedent to take away human rights, and there are individuals in government who are interested in doing that very thing.
And one of the tragic things about these laws is that abortion will continue, but it will be more difficult to get it done safely. Women will have to travel farther to receive the procedure, or have it done in clinics that are unsafe.