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Minnesota Senate panel approves trio of gun bills

Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS — A trio of bills aimed at curbing gun violence received the endorsement of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, a giant victory for supporters of gun safety measures who have seen similar proposals languish for years under Republican control of the Senate.

The sponsor of the bills, Senate Judiciary Chair Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said he doesn't expect to consider any additional gun bills this session. The question now becomes whether these three bills can pass the Senate, where Democrats have a 34-33 advantage.

"Everyone's going to make their own judgment call on it," Latz said. "We have lots of new senators evaluating a lot of things for the first time."

In a hearing that stretched beyond five hours, the committee heard from more than 30 members of the public, crime victims and law enforcement, most of whom supported the bills.

A few opponents testified that the measures attempt to incrementally impinge on their Second Amendment rights and inconvenience them. One opponent sharply threatened electoral retaliation against senators who voted for the bills, and received multiple rebukes.

Latz opened his comments by saying: "Gun violence is an epidemic in our society."


He talked about people living in fear, and how more Minnesotans die by suicide using guns than by homicides involving guns. The three bills would help the state "step up to the plate a little bit more and prevent firearms tragedies," he said.

The first bill, which the panel endorsed and sent to the Finance Committee on a 6-4 party-line vote, would close a loophole in the law by expanding criminal background checks for pistols and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons sold at shows, online or transferred. Latz noted the bill wouldn't apply to hunting rifles.

The least controversial bill would increase penalties to 20 years for owning or possessing a machine gun, trigger activator or a conversion kit to make a gun automatic. That bill passed on a voice vote, as did a red flag bill aimed at keeping firearms away from those who are a danger to themselves or others.

House committees have endorsed the background check and red flag bills, but haven't yet acted on the machine gun bill.


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