DFL lawmakers are closer than ever before to passing multiple gun-control bills in Minnesota as a Republican-controlled Senate stands in the way.
A universal background checks bill and a “red flag” law both advanced out of committee this week. The former was approved by the House Public Safety Committee late Wednesday night in a 9-7 vote, while the latter was approved the following morning in a 10-7 vote.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, who made gun control a top priority heading into the 2019 session, said that “it’s just a different moment in our history,” and she’s “hoping that the Minnesota Senate is ready to acknowledge that and take action.”
The bills in question are House File 8 and House File 9, among the first bills introduced this session by DFL legislators.
HF 8 would mandate “criminal background checks” for all firearms transfers, requiring a “permit to purchase” for all purchases and transfers from anyone. It would also raise the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.
HF 9 allows law enforcement and family members to petition a court to “prohibit people from possessing firearms if they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.” That bill lays out a number of stipulations that would allow courts to seize firearms from Minnesotans, including a history of mental illness, a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction, chemical dependency, domestic violence, dishonorable discharges, and more.
House Republicans, who ultimately will have little sway in preventing the bills from being passed by the Democratic majority, called a press conference Wednesday to discuss the legislation.
“Our strategy going into committee today is going to be to demonstrate why these bills don’t work, but our members are committed to rolling up their sleeves to help solve the problem with anybody who actually wants to solve the problem—not to make a political statement or pretend like there’s some magic solution in these bills,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said. “These are not the answer to the problem, and I think you’ll see that as we work through the process and ask a lot of questions about some of the holes that are in these bills.”
Rep. Marion O’Neill (R-Maple Lake) said she’s spent a lot of her career passing legislation to protect women from violence, but argued that’s not what these bills do.
“That’s not what this bill accomplishes. Quite frankly, I’m not sure where the language came from because it doesn’t fit into our current statutes. There are undefined terms,” she said. “I also have great concerns that it violates due process rights. We’re also talking about infringing on someone’s Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.”
Rep. Marion O'Neill: "So you're going to take someone's 2nd Amendment Rights, infringe upon their 4th & 5th Amendment Rights, and they aren't even at the hearing? I have a problem with that." #mnleg pic.twitter.com/S5EeHhbBGQ
— MN House Republicans (@mnhousegop) February 27, 2019
In response to the bills advancing out of committee, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus said it is “significantly outspent by the anti-gun groups in this state.”
“Protect Minnesota raises hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Michael Bloomberg’s groups have millions of dollars in lobbying, ‘grassroots’ support, and more,” it said in a statement.
Nancy Nord Bence, executive director of Protect Minnesota, was elated upon hearing that the bills advanced out of committee.
“This has never happened before in the history of the state. We are finally on the road to substantive gun reform. We’re not their yet. We have a long ways to go, but I want us to take a moment and celebrate and pat ourselves on the back for all the hard work that we’ve done that has brought this to fruition,” she said in a video posted to Twitter.
WE DID IT!!!! WE GOT THE CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS AND RED FLAG BILLS PASSED THROUGH COMMITTEE!! THERE’S A LONG WAY STILL TO GO, BUT THIS IS THE FARTHEST WE’VE EVER GOTTEN TOWARDS SUBSTANTIVE GUN REFORM IN MINNESOTA!!! I’M SO HAPPY I CAN’T STOP YELLING!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/NMNoIRVXgt
— Protect Minnesota (@ProtectMN) February 28, 2019
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Melissa Hortman” by Melissa Hortman. Photo “Kurt Daudt” by Kurt Daudt.