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Minnesota committee sinks pair of gun control bills

Minnesota Capitol. Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- A Minnesota committee on Tuesday, May 14, voted down a pair of gun control proposals, likely blocking their path forward this year.

The panel aiming to reconcile differences between House and Senate public safety and judiciary spending bills rejected each of the bills with Democrats supporting them and Republicans opposing them. The bills needed a majority vote among both the House and Senate sides of the committee to be added to the larger spending bill.

The first proposal would require background checks at the point of transfer of a pistol or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon. Exceptions would be made for firearm transfers to an immediate family member, transfers while hunting, at a shooting competition or at a gun range.

The second would allow law enforcement to remove a person's firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.

Supporters, including law enforcement officers, said the proposals would help cut down on gun violence in Minnesota.

“I would say it would almost be grossly negligent not to take a step like this,” Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said, pointing to higher rates of gun deaths in states that rolled back laws requiring background checks to purchase firearms.

While the proposal didn't pass, Democrats said they could again bring the measures up for consideration later.

Opponents, including gun rights advocates, said the measures could unfairly restrict Minnesotans' right to bear arms.

“We’re treating folks as if they all have the potential of becoming criminals,” Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said. “It’s neighbors, it’s friends, it’s those people who are hunting together.”

Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders in the House, who hold a majority in that chamber, have said they'd fight to pass the bills this session. GOP leaders in the Senate, meanwhile, have said the measures wouldn't have the support to pass.

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