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Walz calls on lawmakers to take up gun control after Texas, Ohio shootings

State lawmakers considered a pair of gun control measures earlier this year but they reached a roadblock in the Minnesota Senate.

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Gov. Tim Walz spoke with reporters at the Minnesota Capitol on Monday, August 5, 2019, about his desire to call state lawmakers back to hold a hearing on a pair of gun control bills. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he'd call on lawmakers to take up gun control measures next week when they return to the capital to discuss turnover at the Department of Human Services.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor on Monday, August 5, said he brought up the topic on a call with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. Gazelka has blocked a pair of gun control bills from getting a hearing in a Senate committee.

The calls to convene a hearing on Minnesota gun laws come days after shooters in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, opened fire in a Walmart and a crowded bar killing 30 people and injuring dozens.

“I just think the deafening silence of not doing anything, of rejecting the possibility of a hearing simply can’t go on any longer,” Walz told reporters. "They’ve found time next week to have a hearing on DHS, I would say I would suggest that they stay a little longer and do insulin and guns."

Walz said he'd also be willing to call a special legislative session to discuss the gun control measures if lawmakers could reach an agreement about them ahead of time.

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Democratic lawmakers this year brought a pair of gun control measures that they said would help cut down on gun violence in Minnesota. Both passed the DFL-controlled House but didn't come up for a hearing in the Republican-led Senate. A panel of House and Senate members didn't have the needed support to add the bills to a larger public safety and judiciary spending bill.

The first proposal would've required 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.

Gazelka on Twitter Sunday night said the background checks on gun sales haven't proven effective in preventing mass shootings.

"Most gun purchases already require background checks," Gazelka said. "Universal background checks on sales to relatives & friends have not proven to eliminate deranged murderers from killing innocent people. We will focus on mental health issues, and tougher penalties when thugs use guns."

The Senate Majority Leader didn't immediately elaborate or comment on his conversation with Walz on Monday.

Lawmakers also took up a measure earlier this year that would allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others. The bill passed the House but didn't come up for a hearing in the Senate.

President Donald Trump on Monday called for bipartisan gun legislation and stronger mental health policy at the federal level. Trump also suggested that the Department of Justice bring the death penalty for those who commit hate crimes.

And Walz said the president's support for so-called "red flag" legislation should give Republicans cover to take them up in Minnesota.

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“I would think both from a practical and political standpoint, President Trump’s with you on this so come back and get it done," Walz said. "It certainly can’t hurt you electorally if that’s the worry."

On Twitter, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said Monday that she would keep working to get the bills passed into law. Advocates seeking tighter restrictions are set to hold a rally near the Capitol on Wednesday night.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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