One subject loomed large over U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips’ town hall meeting at Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie on June 1: the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.
While many topics were covered, including health care and inflation, the recent devastating mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, were clearly at the forefront of the audience’s mind. Eden Prairie Mayor Ron Case randomly selected questions from the audience, and no other subject ended up getting discussed more.
Phillips, D-3rd District, began addressing the issue by breaking the news that another mass shooting had just occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Four people were murdered Wednesday as a disgruntled patient stormed a medical center and killed his surgeon and three other health care providers. In the nine days since the Uvalde school shooting, there have been 21 more mass shootings across the country, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
“There’s a madness going on in this country that is unique to this country,” Phillips said. “It is happening no where else. There’s another massacre that’s going to happen again in a couple days or a couple weeks. I don’t want us to become desensitized to children being murdered in a classroom, but that’s what’s happening.”
Phillips stressed that any solution to the issue would have to be composed of many different elements. These included, in his mind, raising the age requirement to purchase an assault rifle, red flag laws, and universal background checks.
Despite stressing the overwhelming popular support for such measures, Phillips said, “Can I tell you tonight this will get done? No. I believe we will get something done. I don’t believe it will be everything. Do I think it will have much effect? Time will tell. But we sure as heck have to do something.”
Phillips was also asked if he supported removing protections from gun manufacturers that exempt them from liability lawsuits.
“I’m not sure why one industry should be exempt,” he said. “I’m not even saying the current law would make them liable, but why should they be protected from liability?”
Phillips talked about an advertisement he saw featuring an infant holding an AR-15-style weapon.
“It’s obscene, it’s grotesque, it’s irresponsible,” he said. “When you market like that there should be a consequence. It’s not about changing what they produce. But it’s the same accountability that other businesses in the U.S. have to answer to.”
When asked if it was worth it to march to Washington, D.C., to demand action on gun violence prevention, Phillips stressed that such action did, in his words, “move the needle.”
“Marching to Washington is impactful,” he said. “I’m actually saddened that during my tenure I haven’t seen more Americans show up in Washington and express their right to protest. I think it’s time again for more people to show up.”