New Hope, Minnesota Shooting Raises Interesting Questions

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Last night, in the Minneapolis suburb of New Hope, two police officers were shot by a long-gun wielding man, who was immediately killed by other police officers. Here’s the story as we know it:

Two New Hope police recruits were at the City Council meeting being sworn in. They left the City Council room, and in the lobby outside the room, police in the lobby fired on by a man wielding a rifle or other sort of long gun. Police officers returned fire and killed that man. Two police officers were hit, are in hospital, no one else was killed.

There are a number of unknowns at this point such as were the recruits the cops that were hit? Who was the perp and why did he do that? These questions will be cleared up in due course, I’m sure.

But there are two other questions that I have. First, why was city council member John Elder packing a handgun? In this photograph from the scene, he is seen holding his pistol:

New Hope City Council Member John Elder draws his pistol at a City Council Meeting in response to hearing gunshots outside. He is also heard telling technicians to turn off the security cameras that were operating i the room at the time.
New Hope City Council Member John Elder draws his pistol at a City Council Meeting in response to hearing gunshots outside. He is also heard telling technicians to turn off the security cameras that were operating i the room at the time.

So, my first question is, why is a New Hope City Council member packing a gun at the meeting?

My second question pertains to something John Elder says during the incident. He is seen holding his gun, pointing it towards the doors leading to the lobby, in a shooter’s stance. During this time he instructs the technicians to turn off the cameras. The way he says it is a bit odd; he tells them to “go to a commercial.” I assume the meeting is being shown on public access TV (for once, some excitement on public access TV!) and he may simply be interested in protecting the public from seeing something gruesome. And that may be good. But it also was an elected member of the government carrying a gun in what I assume is a no-carry zone (that needs to be verified) trying to limit evidence of that act.

The third question I (and everyone) has is this: How do you get a long gun in a city hall?

I should note that Elder is a former policeman, and his having the gun in the city hall may have been entirely appropriate. Also, if someone is going to have a gun in a situation like this, I’d rather have it be a sworn officer of the law, or someone like Elder, who has law enforcement experience. Had this incident moved into the council room, he would have been able to put a stop to it, perhaps. So, please understand, these are questions I’m asking, not accusations I’m making (people get very touchy about guns).

I’m reminded of a wedding I went to years ago in Arkansas. The wedding was officiated by a federal judge in a federal courtroom. An assistant to the judge is who was getting married, and they decided to do it this way, with just a few family members. (I was a family member.) We all went to the court house after hours, with the judge and the soon to be wedded couple. When we got to the security check, we all simply walked around it, judge leading, and headed back to his courtroom. This was a few months after 9/11 when security was tight in all federal facilities, already tightened earlier after the Oklahoma City bombing. But it was an example of how security can become suddenly very lax under certain conditions.

Personally, I’m very annoyed at all the extra security, but it seems that only minimal security could have kept a rifle out of the city hall!

The Star Tribune has the story.

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