Gun safety proposals take a big step forward in the Minnesota Legislature

A pair of gun violence prevention measures long sought by Minnesota Democrats were added Wednesday to a sweeping public safety budget bill, significantly increasing their chances of becoming law.

By unanimous voice votes, an all-Democratic House-Senate conference committee approved expanded background checks for gun transfers and a separate proposal for a “red flag law.” It would allow authorities to obtain “extreme risk protection orders” to temporarily remove weapons. of persons considered to be an imminent threat to others or to themselves.

But the gun measures still have a ways to go before they can become law. The conference committee had other work to complete on the package before sending it back to the full House and Senate. Lawmakers will then have to vote on the entire funding bill that needs to pass, which could make the election easier to swallow for a handful of rural Democratic senators who have been undecided. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has pledged to sign it.

Michigan, another Midwestern state where gun culture runs deep, is also close to passing a red flag law, adopting a background check bill last month. While red flag laws are touted as a powerful tool to stop gun violence before it happens, an Associated Press analysis in September found they are barely used in the 19 states and the District of Columbia where they exist.

While the Minnesota House of Representatives had included the two proposals in its version of the bill, it has been an open question all year whether supporters could find enough votes in the Senate, where Democrats hold only a one-plus majority. seat and left language out of reach. version. The conference committee’s action on Wednesday suggested that the sponsors believe they now have the votes.

Committee members pointed to the record pace of mass shootings in the United States this year, which appears to be widening the political divide between states over guns. Despite a mass shooting at an outdoor mall near Dallas on Saturday, momentum in Texas faded Wednesday after Republicans stalled a bill that would raise the purchase age for AR-style rifles.

Senator Bonnie Westlin of Plymouth said shooters frequently experience suicidal episodes and there is often some kind of warning that they are in crisis.

“No one has ever said that any of these provisions will completely eliminate gun violence and gun deaths and injuries. No one has ever made that statement,” Westlin said. “But this is about harm reduction. It’s about risk reduction. It’s about recognizing and stepping in and helping people before something happens.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Latz of St. Louis Park has fought for years to advance both proposals, but was blocked in previous sessions by the Senate’s former Republican majority. He challenged the argument by gun rights advocates that guns aren’t the problem, it’s the people.

“None of these bills prohibit firearms,” Latz said. “These bills are people-focused. Separate firearms from people who are resisting the law and are not eligible to own firearms and therefore should not have them, or people, due to the crisis they are in, (who) are an immediate threat to the safety of themselves or their family or others around them

The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, which maintains that the proposals would be unconstitutional violations of the Second Amendment, denounced how the Democratic conference committee rushed to pass the measures unanimously, with little public discussion and no testimony taken.

“By packaging it along with funds for corrections, courts, and public defenders, they are providing political cover to vulnerable senators,” the group tweeted. He specifically named Democratic Sens. Rob Kupec of Moorhead, Grant Hauschild of Hermantown, Judy Seeberger of Afton and Aric Putnam of St. Cloud, some of whom have avoided taking public positions until now.

“It remains to be seen whether Senate Democrats have the votes to pass their public safety bill,” Senate Minority Leader GOP Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks said in a statement. “Self-style moderates will have to decide whether to stick to their promises to their constituents or bow to the will of the party leadership.”

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