Minn. Republicans bring gun bills meant to build 'consensus,' again clash with gun control advocates
Minnesota Senate leaders on Tuesday put forth a slate of proposals aimed at curbing violence in the state, which they said could withstand the scrutiny of the divided Legislature.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Senate leaders on Tuesday, March 9, put forth a slate of proposals aimed at curbing violence in the state, which they said could withstand the scrutiny of the divided Legislature.
The bills would require additional enforcement of existing firearm laws, add additional offenders to the list of those ineligible to carry a firearm and boost funding to units that investigate violent drug crime in Greater Minnesota.
A hearing on many of the proposals Tuesday comes about two months after lawmakers traveled to Hibbing to discuss several proposals ranging from requiring background checks for firearm purchases and transfers to allowing qualified firearm owners to carry without a permit.
"The overriding theme is we want to protect Minnesotans and we want to convict criminals," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said.
The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday took up several of the bills after attempts to amend them to include the red flag and background checks proposals failed. And while some of the Republican measures picked up bipartisan support, Democrats and gun control groups said the proposals didn't go far enough or, in some cases, were aimed at creating a divide between rural and urban Minnesotans.
The GOP bills would increase penalties for criminal gang members to possess a firearm in public or for a person who knowingly transfers a firearm to a known criminal, bring state conceal carry permit language into compliance with federal law, broaden the state's drive-by shooting law, include civilly committed sex offenders in the group of those ineligible to possess firearms and set a 10-day requirement for the courts to ensure firearms have been removed under protective orders.
Other proposals would fund specialized law enforcement units that target violent gang and drug crimes in Greater Minnesota, require the Metropolitan Council to report annually about transit safety and boost cameras, require Minneapolis and St. Paul to use 10% of their Local Government Aid funds on adding police officers and prohibit local leaders from disarming law enforcement officers.
"We have a reality that we have to deal with, we have a divided government," Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said. "Today's bills are meant to build consensus."
Democrats, who for years had been pushing for the Senate to take up a pair of gun control measures, meanwhile, said the plans were "milquetoast" and served an urban-versus-rural campaign narrative more than an effort to combat violent crime.
"They're coming up with these milquetoast bills, this window dressing," Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, said. "They go out and claim to the public that they're seriously trying to reduce gun violence but in fact, all it is window dressing. And milquetoast is not going to get the job done."
Latz and other DFL lawmakers on the panel raised concerns about the requirement that Minneapolis and St. Paul spend a certain amount of state-allocated funds on police and pointed to other plans to prevent violence in the Twin Cities by working to expand community supports for young people.
And gun control groups were quick to drop ads blasting Senate leaders for not taking up a proposal that would beef up background checks at the point of transfer of a firearm and allow law enforcement to remove a person's firearms if they are found to pose a danger to themselves or others.
"We’re telling our lawmakers to do their job and vote for gun safety, and if they don’t, we’ll vote them out of office," Jessica Deweerth, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action's Minnesota chapter, said in a news release.