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Opinion: It's time for all of us to step up to the plate

The 2018 legislative session is underway and it's been a busy first two weeks. Important issues like federal tax conformity, a bonding bill, fixing Minnesota's broken DMV/MNLARS system and ways to combat the opioid epidemic will all be discussed this session. As for myself, I will continue to fight for the values and priorities that matter most to you and your family.

Sadly, another school shooting in Florida has brought school safety and guns to the forefront. In recent days, I have received countless emails from constituents sharing their concern and sympathy for the victim's families while simultaneously sharing their fear that our Constitution is under attack. I have long been open and upfront with constituents about my support of the Second Amendment and belief that citizens have a constitutional right to self-defense. To that end, I will not support any legislation that infringes on the rights of law-abiding Minnesotans exercising their constitutional rights.

I am however, supportive of strengthening measures to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals that are already prohibited from having them. Sadly, a number of the perpetrators of recent shootings were either ineligible by law from owning or purchasing a firearm or had exhibited a number of red-flags that should have been addressed in the lead up to the attack. We need to do better at following up on tips to law enforcement and ensure the existing background check system is functioning the way it needs to.

With that said, there is certainly no shortage of ideas or public opinion on how we should respond. From my perspective, heightened security at our schools and a better focus on mental health should be core objectives.

Last session, I voted to fund the School Safety Center as part of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division within the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. This center conducts hundreds of training sessions across the state each year, assisting school districts with safety assessments, training for active shooter responses, and how to identify red flags and behavior in troubled students. We have improved security in our courts, government buildings, and airports as a result of other tragedies. We should be looking at ways to improve security at our schools as well.

In addition to those steps, the Legislature has made serious investments in school-linked mental health initiatives that are focused on helping teachers and counselors better identify students that are suffering from mental illness.

This last point is one that is near and dear to my heart and no government program can replicate a strong family and social connection. The majority of these school shooting tragedies are perpetrated by young men that are struggling socially. They often have no one to turn to when they face difficulties in life. Here's where a cultural fix is in order. We need to teach our children that all life is valuable, from conception to natural death and remember we all have a responsibility to be kind and loving to one another. As a nation, we need to step up to the plate and instill these important values in our youth. Christ said it best: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself."

No matter your views on gun control and no matter what your ideas are to prevent future crises like the attack in Florida, I want you to know that I am listening to you. I want to hear from you so please do not hesitate to reach out to me to share your thoughts. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or via email at rep.josh.heintzeman@house.mn.

Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives