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On party-line vote, Minnesota House approves new gun control measures

Plymouth moms Kelly Nyquist and Natalie Anderson attend a Moms Demand Action rally in front of the state Capitol in St. Paul, April 25, 2023. Both have kindergartners and say their children should feel safe in school and not have to do 'active shooter' drills. Minnesota Democrats say this is the year tougher background checks and red flag laws that allow law enforcement to take guns away from people deemed dangerous will become law. (Christopher Magan / Pioneer Press/TNS)

The Minnesota Legislature moved one step closer to passing new gun control laws when the House advanced a bill Wednesday evening with expanded background checks and a red flag law to take weapons from people deemed dangerous.

The new restrictions are a top priority for Democrats, who have narrow control of both chambers of the Legislature. They passed the House as part of a sprawling public safety funding and policy bill that was approved on a 69-60 party-line vote.

But the real question is whether Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party members can hold together their one-seat majority in the Senate and pass the new gun controls. DFL leaders have repeatedly said they have the votes to approve the measures.

“Political capital is not something you bank away,” Gov. Tim Walz said during a Tuesday rally in front of the Capitol with Moms Demand Action. “Political capital is what you burn to improve lives.”

Nevertheless, opponents of the gun control laws say it will be a tough vote for several Democrats who won tight Senate races in 2022 to give DFLers the trifecta of control of state government.

So far, the gun restrictions are not in the Senate’s version of the public safety bill, but there is funding to implement them if they become law. Instead, the changes are moving through the committee process as stand-alone bills that have not yet come to the floor for a full vote.

“We are working on a plan to get them passed by the end of session and I am confident we are going to be able to do that,” Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said in mid-April before the public safety funding bill was approved by the Senate without the new gun control measures.

Republicans remain united in opposition to the new restrictions.

“This bill not only fails to address our rampant crime, it begins to strip away out constitutional rights,” said Rep. Shane Hudella, R-Hastings.

What are the new restrictions?

The new gun control laws Democrats hope to approve this legislative session are expanded background checks and a red flag law.

Under the background check provision, anyone privately transferring a “pistol or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon” to someone else would need to have a permit to purchase a firearm or a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon. Applications for permits are typically handled by a purchaser’s local law enforcement agency.

The bill allows firearms owners to transfer weapons to another person through a federally licensed dealer. Anyone who transfers ownership of a firearm would need to keep a record of the sale and produce those records if asked by law enforcement.

The red flag law would create an “extreme risk protection order” that family members or law enforcement could request that would prohibit someone from possessing or buying guns for a timeframe set by a court. Someone subject to the red flag order would have to relinquish their weapons, but could get them back when the court order expires.

Support and opposition

Democratic backers of these changes say they will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. They say the new restrictions are “common sense” measures that have broad support among voters and have been implemented in both liberal and conservative states.

“This is a transformational bill. It will improve safety in every corner of the state of Minnesota,” Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview, who chairs the public safety committee, said before the bill was approved. She noted that in addition to the gun restrictions it contained spending and policy changes to help law enforcement, address crime and help victims.

Opponents say the tougher gun laws punish law-abiding citizens and will not be followed by criminals. They also believe the red flag laws are unconstitutional and violate rights to due process.

“There are ways to keep neighborhoods safe and make sure firearms do not fall into the hands of criminals without violating civil rights,” said Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, the top Republican on the House public safety committee. “This bill dramatically misses the mark on both accounts and will make Minnesota less safe.”

A Senate vote on the gun control measures has not been scheduled.


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