Gun violence prevention

Following the massacres at the Accent Signage Company in Minneapolis, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, and Sandy Hook Elementary School, County Attorney Mike Freeman developed a package of gun violence prevention bills for the Minnesota legislature. The common sense changes proposed in the Practical Prosecutors' Package would provide county attorneys with more tools to address gun violence and keep our children and communities safe without affecting responsible gun owners.

The first year it was introduced, the package passed every legislative committee in the Minnesota House and Senate, but was never brought to a floor vote. In 2014, the legislature passed the domestic violence piece of the package.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman talks about gun violence prevention

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Arts vs. gun violence

Frustrated by the failure of the legislature to pass new laws to curb gun violence, County Attorney Freeman sought ideas from his employees for creative ways to stop the bloodshed.

The first idea was commissioning local playwright Syl Jones to write a play about gun violence. Stars & Stripes dealt with that issue, bullying, social media and absent parents. Mixed Blood Theater was engaged to perform the play and in early March 2014, the production was put on in a dozen middle and high schools throughout Hennepin County. After the shows, county attorney employees led discussions with the students about what they had seen and how they could fight the violence.

Besides producing a play on gun violence, Freeman decided to employ video and social media. A local video company was hired to produce three short videos to connect with youth about staying away from guns and gun violence. Another company was hired to develop an overall campaign and website and hashtag so teenagers could see and share the videos and other parts with their friends. The campaign is called changethestoryHennepin and it includes scenes from Stars & Stripes, the three videos, a pledge against gun violence for students and a place for their own stories.

Utilizing all of these tools, the county attorney’s office hopes to educate youth about the dangers of gun violence and other ways to resolve disputes. And, as is the case with the play, the videos and all of the changethestoryHennepin campaign is paid for by drug forfeiture money, not taxpayer dollars.

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