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Minnesota's Dayton focuses on school safety measures with gun-control bills unlikely to pass

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. File photo / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will focus on improving school security and access to mental health services to keep students safe after saying Wednesday, March 7, that gun control measures he continues to push are unlikely to pass the Republican-led Legislature.

Dayton proposed $21 million in new spending as part of a “Safe and Secure Schools Act” that would fortify schools and provide grants to districts to expand mental health care.

“Minnesota students, parents and teachers need all of our schools to be safe places to learn and grow,” Dayton said. “Our mission is to prevent every school shooting. To succeed, we must take action now.”

Parts of the governor’s proposals mirror legislation already working its way through House and Senate committees. Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday from school leaders about the best ways to bolster student safety that included proposals about building security, more counselors and mental health staff and working with students who face suspension or expulsion.

Gun bills

Dayton also re-emphasized his support for tighter gun laws but acknowledged it was unlikely the Republican-led House and Senate would approve any restrictions.

“They don’t even want to talk about it, much less do something,” Dayton said. “It’s shameful.”

Last week, lawmakers tabled proposals requiring universal background checks for private gun sales and allowing police and family members to temporarily restrict access to weapons for people who are deemed dangerous. More legislation is expected to be introduced, but chances of any action are slim.

Gun-rights advocates are staunchly opposed to any new gun regulations. They say restricting access to firearms will not result in fewer mass shootings.

Safety money

Under Dayton’s school safety plan, schools would see a $18 per student increase, a total of $16 million, in funding to improve school security. An additional $5 million in grants would be available for districts to enhance mental health services.

The governor also wants to improve supports for troubled students who are expelled.

Improving school safety has taken on a new sense of urgency since 17 people were shot and killed last month at a high school in Parkland, Fla.