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Minnesotans react strongly to Connecticut elementary school shooting

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From shocked silence to outcries for greater gun control, Minnesotans are reacting strongly to the elementary school shooting in Connecticut Friday that claimed 26 lives, including 20 children.

The death toll stands at 28. The gunman, who took his own life, is suspected of shooting his mother before the school rampage started.

In St. Cloud, educators said they were stunned at the news of the shooting, which happened Friday morning in Newtown, Conn.

Diane Moeller, principal at Kennedy Community School in St. Cloud told the St. Cloud Times, "You kind of are speechless when you hear this kind of news."

According to the Burnsville Patch, officials with the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District posted on the district's website a statement to assure the safety of the children was their top priority.

In Rocori, the mother of a school shooting victim said she went "instantly right back" to the day her son died at Rocori High School in 2003, KMSP-TV reported.

Kim Bartell, the mother of Seth Bartell -- one of the two students who died in the September 2003 shooting -- told the station that the Connecticut school tragedy brought back the feelings of "helplessness, loss, unknown."

Minnesota's education commissioner Brenda Cassellius reacted to the Connecticut shooting by asking the state's superintendents and principals to look at their emergency plans, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, proponents of stronger gun control measures are making their voices heard. According to the Pioneer Press, the advocacy group Protect Minnesota is holding a vigil Friday night in Minneapolis to remember the victims.

Sen. Al Franken spoke about the tragedy Friday, and cautioned that now is not the appropriate time to be debating gun control, the Star Tribune reported.

Instead, Franken said, we should "have the victims and their families in our hearts, in our prayers and in our thoughts."

Franken later postponed his annual holiday gathering, stating in an email: "In light of today's tragedy in Connecticut, we are postponing this evening's holiday party. We'll be in touch with more details shortly. All those affected by this senseless tragedy are in our thoughts and prayers."

Franken's sentiments to hold back on the gun debate weren't shared by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who issued a call for greater gun control laws in a statement, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

"The time has come for President Obama, Congress and the American people to come together to act immediately to end the epidemic of gun violence and the proliferation of guns designed to be weapons of mass murder," McCollum said. "Inaction and obstruction by the National Rifle Association to common sense gun laws is not tolerable."

Gov. Mark Dayton earlier in the day issued a statement about the shootings, saying, "This dastardly, cold-blooded murder of innocent children and their educators by a deranged individual shocks Minnesotans. All of our children, their parents, and all of their teachers should feel certain every day that their safety is the paramount concern. The deepest condolences of Minnesotans go to the parents and families of the victims of this horrific act."

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