‘Lifetime ban’ did little to prevent the tragic murder of first responders

Several news organizations have identified the man who shot and killed two police officers and a firefighter yesterday in Burnsville as 38-year-old Shannon Cortez Gooden.

One of Gooden’s children called authorities who had surrounded the house following the fatal shooting, to inform them that Gooden had fatally shot himself. The official identification is expected later today when the Hennepin County regional Medical Examiner’s Office completes the autopsy.

A review of state court records reveals a few interesting facts about Gooden.

First, he was the subject of a lifetime ban on possessing firearms due to a 2008 conviction for 2nd degree assault. During the incident, Gooden had attempted to stab his cousin with a 7-inch knife during a fight, then pelted the cousin and his aunt’s car with landscape rocks as they fled. This incident occurred a few years after Gooden had been convicted of two separate domestic abuse charges involving women.

In 2020, Gooden petitioned the Dakota County District Court to restore his right to possess firearms. In the petition, Gooden suggested he had matured, and wanted his rights restored so he could protect himself and his family. The court found about a dozen criminal incidents, mostly involving traffic infractions, and a few petitions for domestic abuse no-contact orders, and ordered that Gooden was not a suitable candidate to have his rights to possess firearms restored, and kept in place the lifetime ban Gooden had been subject to since 2008.

It will be interesting to learn just how Gooden came to possess the guns he did, and what happens to those who may have supplied those guns to him. 

Other civil court records indicate that Gooden had at least five children with two women and had entered into a new relationship with a woman who had two more children. The court had determined that Gooden was earning an average of $12,000/mo in 2023 as an employee of LaMettry’s Collision in Rosemount. Despite this sizable income, Gooden had been delinquent in several judgements against him from his bank and from previously court-ordered child support payments to his former wife.

It remains unclear what the domestic situation was that prompted the call to police yesterday morning, or who called the police. What is clear is that the lifetime ban on possessing firearms was of little concern to Gooden. 

This lack of concern on the part of Gooden demonstrates that laws alone will not prevent violence — it’s the follow-through in holding accountable criminal offenders who possess and use firearms in the commission of crime that matters. Criminals should be terrified of the penalties that await them if they choose to possess or use firearms. Our court system’s current feeble response to criminals possessing or using firearms in the commission of crimes does not deter criminals from doing so. I recently wrote about this concern based on my review of data from the Sentencing Guidelines Commission—

There were a record number of cases involving an offense committed with a firearm — 1,805 in 2023, up from 1,587 in 2022 and 636 just 15 years earlier. Despite this rise in the use of firearms in the commission of a crime, which carry mandatory minimum sentencing, only 30% (545) ended up with a conviction and a mandatory minimum sentence.  48% of these cases were either not charged, dismissed, or the mandatory minimum sentence was waived.

There are two areas we need to improve upon in Minnesota if we expect to see the elimination of gun violence.

First, back our police officers at every step, never allowing false narratives to cloud the great sacrifices and work they do each day to keep us safe.  We need to reject the culture that has been allowed to grow since 2020 which dehumanizes our law enforcement officers and paints them as the problem. The truth is that those who choose to serve their communities as law enforcement officers are some of the best representatives those communities have produced. Faithfully backing the blue has to be paramount going forward.

Second, if we are serious about gun violence, then we must demand our court and correctional systems pick the low-hanging fruit that is criminal offenders possessing and using firearms in the commission of crimes. Until we commit to that, it is senseless to speak about restricting legal gun ownership or, as is rumored in this Minnesota legislative session, further weakening penalties for illegal gun possession based on “disparities” such laws are perceived to create.

Thus future is ours to make, and our choices are clear.