The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 21, 2012

Walz ‘deeply disappointed’ by NRA stand

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota congressman who gets high marks from the National Rifle Association said he was dismayed with the gun lobby’s proposal Friday to station armed police officers in every school across America, saying it would turn schools into armed camps.

Rep. Tim Walz, a former teacher and National Guard veteran, considers himself a staunch defender of the Second Amendment and gets straight A’s from the NRA for his support on gun-rights issues. But the Democrat from Mankato said he has been rethinking his opposition to a ban on assault-style weapons and believes the country needs an open discussion about gun violence.

He told reporters during a conference call he was “deeply disappointed” by NRA chief lobbyist Wayne LaPierre’s comments at a Washington news conference about last week’s shooting rampage that killed 20 children and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school.

“I reject his pessimistic world view,” said Walz, who taught geography and coached football at Mankato West High School before he was elected to Congress. “I refuse to believe that our schools have to become armed encampments where our children don’t feel safe.”

The NRA plan also drew flak from other Minnesota Democrats and leaders of the state’s main teachers’ union, Education Minnesota.

“No legal organization in America is more responsible than the NRA for lobbying to ensure the proliferation of killer guns while denying law enforcement tools to stop killers,” Rep. Betty McCollum, whose district includes St. Paul, said in a statement. “Wayne LaPierre’s call for guards and guns in every school building and playground is madness and a perverse vision for life in America.”

Among Minnesota Republicans, Rep. Michele Bachman declined an interview. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The dean of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, Rep. Collin Peterson, who like Walz is an NRA-endorsed rural Democrat, was traveling and not immediately available, his spokeswoman said.

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