Editor’s note: Welcome back to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with input from a rotating cast of local characters.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity, but not unity. Any instances of agreement are accidental. Our respondents are comfortable sounding-off in any way, and about anything, and this is no place for them to stop.
By Mike Mullen
Question 1: What is the best thing Minnesota or the United States could do to prevent gun rampages?
Robyne Robinson, arts and culture director, Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Foundation, former Fox 9 anchor: It’s frustrating to continue to talk about a topic that, obviously, people feel we do not additional checks. We make sure people are not bringing something on a plane they can’t take on. It would behoove us, obviously, to make sure someone cannot get a gun that, that person can possibly hurt someone. It’s not limiting the rights of people who want to carry a gun, who want to hunt, but it just makes it a little more responsible.
Jeff Kolb, Republican activist, Crystal City Council member: To quote Tony Cornish, “It sounds like it’s becoming a cliché here.” But we have a mental health problem here in the United States. It’s not a gun problem. And we need to seriously look at and address our mental health problem.
Amy Koch, former GOP Senate majority leader: I read a really interesting article about [how] we always try to analyze these things, and we say, “He was angry at women.” We give shooters more attention than we should. That’s a shame. We should not make sick celebrities out of these guys. That’s what they want, that’s why they do it. [Sigh.] And then I feel like, me as a citizen, if I want to exercise my Second Amendment right, I have that right. But I also have a responsibility to do it in a way that is as a caretaker for it, and responsible. I think more citizens need to do a better job of following the rules and the laws.
Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing: I don’t think there’s any one thing. I think it’s probably a combination of things. I don’t know the perfect solution. People on one side think better mental health services will solve problems. People on the other think more laws on guns would solve the problems. It seems to me we have a culture of violence where too many people think it’s OK to take the life of another person, not just through mass shootings, but through domestic violence and other random acts of violence.
Question 2: What does the meltdown over John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy and the U.S. House tell us about Congress?
Robinson: Congress is a mess. Trying to sort out all the backdoor deals, and micro-factions, and politics just shows we have a dysfunctional government. The simple fact of the matter is, we don’t have anybody willing to sit down … with their own party, and the chief executive officer to get to the issues that really have been dragged out too long.
Kolb: Breaking: Congress is dysfunctional.
Melin: The Republican Party really brought this on themselves through gerrymandering they’ve done in other parts of the United States. Too many people have gotten elected to office that have no interest in governing, and have no interest in showing leadership. What we’re seeing in the U.S. House is Republicans’ real inability to govern. I’m not sure that will change any time soon.
Koch: I think it says more about leadership. It is a reflection of the continued disappointment, disillusionment and frustration with leaders I’m saying of all in Congress. People feel like they’re … not listening, they don’t understand what’s important to the citizens. There’s a lot of angst out there, and it’s the same thing that’s propelling [Donald] Trump in the polls. They don’t feel like those people are listening.
Question 3: Indiana University is the latest school to have a scandal involving a fraternity, with the taping of a secret sexual ritual. Overall, are fraternities a good or bad thing?
Robinson: As an African-American, I know fraternities have done a lot for people in our community when they were alone on campuses and had no one to support them. When my father died a couple years ago, his frat brothers, some he knew and some he did not know, came to his funeral and sang their fraternal order. It meant a lot to us. However, I think over many decades we’ve gotten away from what the real mission of fraternities had been, as public service entities.
Kolb: Give me a second to phrase this appropriately. [Pause.] Breaking: Fraternities are scandalous.
Melin: It seems to me there is a sexual violence crisis on campus across the country. Not all of that is related to fraternities. But one in four college women have experienced some form of sexual assault on campus. That’s epidemic, and that’s something we need to address even aside from fraternities.
Koch: I hate to blame any organization and say they’re all bad. This is an example of kids just having an entitlement mentality. I feel like some sort of old person when I say this. [Laughs.] It results in actual abusive situations, and sex videotaping. And also, it’s girls going along with it, and what are they thinking? It’s everything! I think it has more to do with entitled, spoiled kids.
Question 4: The Twin Cities marathon was run last Sunday. What do you think of the people who take time to train and run in that race?
Robinson: I can appreciate that people put a lot of time into training, maybe a whole year, a couple years. I really respect that level of commitment. Fantastic. But, you know. [Laughs.] I’m a sitter, not a runner. Now, I know we’re not talking about it in this issue, but… on the [Black Lives Matter] protest… you saw this level of hatred that came out, because it was interrupting something Minnesotans care about. But you can also understand why people feel like they’re pushed to that point, because nobody seems to give a damn.
Melin: I have never understood the idea of running for fun. If you see me running I am being chased. I admire them. They have much loftier goals than I certainly ever had in that regard. I can’t imagine the training it would take to go into running a full marathon, or a 10K. I congratulate all of them, because I don’t think I’ll ever be there.
Koch: I am in awe of the people that put in the time to train and do anything like that. That kind of distance is a whole other level. I’ll do a 5K. That’s enough. [Laughs.] That’s just a warm-up for them.
Kolb: I’m the kind of person who would only run when I’m being chased. It’s an impressive accomplishment, and they should be proud of it. But they’re also a little bit nuts.