Mayor R.T. Rybak has introduced a way for cities to gain leverage in their efforts to pass stricter gun control laws across the country.
Rybak told members of the City Council's Public Safety and Civil Rights Committee that he and mayors from approximately 60 cities are taking a closer look at the companies that manufacture the guns and ammunition that cities buy for police officers.
He said over the past eight years the city has spent nearly $800,000 on guns and ammunition. Rybak, who supports stricter gun control laws, wants to work with firearms manufacturers to reduce gun-related crime and violence. He wants to know if those companies also are lobbying against tighter gun laws.
"If we find out they're not partners, and if we find out they're working against us, then we all ought to have a conversation as taxpayers about whether our dollars should be used for people who are not working to reduce gun violence," Rybak said.
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Minneapolis buys ammunition from two metro area suppliers, Streicher's in Plymouth and Federal Premium Ammunition in Anoka, Rybak said.
Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Travis Glampe said the department recently signed off on a deal making Smith & Wesson its exclusive supplier of handguns. Officers purchase their own guns and they are instructed to buy Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic pistols, Glampe said. Officers can choose from either 9 mm or .45-caliber models.
Glampe said the department's range master tests different guns and determines which gun officers will be required to buy.
"They will make the determination and recommendation to the chief that this weapon is the one we are recommending," Glampe said. "Ultimately it is the chief's decision what gun is going to be authorized for use by the department."
The policy only applies to new officers buying their first service weapon or officers buying a new gun, Glampe said.
Rybak did not propose specific changes to city laws or purchasing rules, but said any changes would have to be examined by the city attorney. There are city ordinances and state laws which regulate procurement of goods and services, according to City Attorney Susan Segal.
"The city can always set reasonable specifications for purchases that it's making," Segal said. "The question is what is included in those specifications."
Rybak said he mentioned this approach to President Barack Obama during a recent visit to Washington, DC. He said Obama and his staff were delighted by the idea.
Obama plans to speak in Minneapolis on Monday to promote his plan to reduce gun violence.