Sen. Al Franken came to Eagan’s Dakota Hills Middle School this afternoon to discuss school safety protocols with counselors, safety experts and ISD 196 administrators in the wake of last month’s Newtown shootings.
Franken repeatedly emphasized the importance of early treatment of mental illness and also spoke about lockdown drills and perimeter security in remarks to reporters after the meeting.
“You [need to] catch this kind of mental illness early, treat it, so it doesn’t grow into something where you have somebody who becomes a shooter,” he said.
ISD 196 superintendent Jane Berenz; the district’s safety director, Mark Parr; and Dakota Hills Middle principal Trevor Johnson were among the 12 participants in the closed-door roundtable discussion.
“We’re continually reviewing our school safety and security policies,” Parr said. “When we have tragic events like this it gives us another opportunity to discuss those.”
Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said Friday that he supports a ban on the sale of high-capacity assault weapons. Franken said today that it was reasonable to look at banning what he called “essentially military weapons.”
“I don’t think there’s any reason to have 30 rounds in a gun clip,” Franken said. “You’ll remember that the shooter in Tucson was stopped when he went to change clips.”
On Saturday, Franken met with state officials, mental health advocates and members of law enforcement and discussed a partnership between the state’s mental health and criminal justice systems.
“In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, we heard a lot of people talk about mental health," he said Saturday, according to Minnesota Public Radio. "But in some ways, I felt it was unfortunately just kind of a talking point.”
Today, in response to a question about whether he would support building a federal database for people with mental health issues, Franken hedged and said he wanted to be careful to keep health and school records separate.
But he said he supported a tighter integration between mental health records and a national background check database.
“The database that is used for background checks is woefully inadequate,” Franken said. “Only 12 out of 50 states send their health records to this database.”
Bellows has said that Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law allows some people with serious mental health issues to acquire firearms.