House Public Safety Committee advances 4 gun bills

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Gun control bills will be the latest area where Democrats who control the Minnesota House and Senate will attempt to pass legislation that’s been bottled up for years. They got a start on Friday by passing four bills through the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of reading stories in the paper and hearing about accidents where young children are killed by firearms that were not secured, not stored properly,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, author of a bill that would require gun owners to lock up their firearms at home and keep them separate from their ammunition.

Opponents say it’s an infringement on their right to defend themselves in their own homes.

“Requiring firearms to be stored unloaded and entirely separate from their ammunition is an undue burden on that right,” testified Bryan Strawser of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.

Another bill authored by Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, would require background checks for all gun sales, including those between private parties. They would have to submit applications to a local police chief or sheriff.

“I want to be clear this bill will not stop every criminal from acquiring a firearm, but I do believe that passing this legislation will reduce gun violence and save families from the devastating impact of losing a loved one,” said Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson in testimony supporting the bill.

“Representative Pinto, how many criminals will this bill stop?” asked Rep. Matt Grossell, (R) Clearbrook, clearly skeptical about what the bill would accomplish.  

“We know this is not going to prevent every transfer of an illegal gun, but what we do know is that this is an expectation we have of gun owners,” Pinto responded.

A third bill would create “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” often referred to as “red flag” laws that would allow a judge and police to temporarily take away weapons in cases where someone is deemed to be a risk due to mental health issues.

“This is just another tool that I believe is necessary to prevent some of the unnecessary deaths,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, the bill’s author.

Speaking on behalf of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said it would be a valuable tool.

“To allow for in these emergency situations to take the gun away a person that is a risk to themselves or to other people,” he testified.

Gun rights supporters questioned the legitimacy of these laws and their lack of due process protections.

“We go knock on their door. Take their firearms and now that the firearms are gone the situation’s fine. That’s an entirely false premise,” said Rob Doar of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.

The fourth bill passed would create misdemeanor penalties for failure to report a lost or stolen weapon within a reasonable time frame.

All these bills passed on 9-6 party-line votes with Democrats in favor and Republicans against during a hearing that last more than four hours. Gun rights supporters say they will make these bills a major issue in upcoming elections if they pass.

“This whole hearing in our opinion is a goat-roping joke,” said Ben Dorr of the Minnesota Gun Rights organization. “So we’ll just say this. Minnesota Gun Rights is massive and our reach extends deep into every district in Minnesota that matters. If you pass these bills Minnesota Gun Rights will viciously expose every politician in the weakest districts in Minnesota in the 2024 elections and every election beyond.”

Democrats have a six-seat majority in the House and a one-seat majority in the Senate.

Follow the progress of these other notable bills with our Legislative Tracker.