Dem-backed gun bills quickly sidetracked at Capitol
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Democratic move to force a hearing on two bills aimed at gun violence ended in defeat Thursday, with Republicans who control a House committee tabling the bills despite a heavy turnout from supporters, including one student who said she has nightmares her school will be attacked.
“How much are our lives worth to you?” Eva Goldfarb, a junior at St. Louis Park High, testified. “Gun reform is no longer a question of if, but a question of when.”
One of the proposals sought to expand Minnesota’s background check rules by requiring most private gun sales and transfers to include a criminal-background check. The other would let police and family members ask courts to intervene to take a person’s gun if they think someone is a danger to themselves or others.
Rep. Dave Pinto, a Democrat from St. Paul, used an obscure parliamentary rule to force a hearing on his bills. He said they could keep potentially dangerous people from getting guns, and pointed to President Donald Trump’s endorsement of similar legislation the day before.
“We’re facing a crisis,” Pinto said.
Rep. Raymond Dehn, a Minneapolis Democrat, said the bills don’t go far enough.
“If we reduce the ability of people who shouldn’t have guns it would reduce shooting,” he said.
Both bills were sidetracked on near-party line votes, with opponents questioning whether the measures would be effective, and whether they were constitutional.
“No background check can stop an evil mind or know and diagnose insanity,” testified Joe Olson, a longtime gun-rights advocate and Mitchell Hamline University law professor.
Other opponents said the second bill raised the prospect of the government taking a person’s gun without due process.
Republican leaders have pointed to other ideas to make schools more secure, including measures that would let local officials tap state and local funds to do so.
Numerous states have introduced background check and protective order legislation since the Florida school shooting last month that left 17 students and teachers dead. But any new gun restrictions face stiff opposition in Minnesota’s GOP-controlled Legislature.
Hours before the hearing, anti-gun violence supporters wearing red shirts reading “Minnesotans Against Getting Shot” swarmed outside of the hearing room. They were countered by gun owners wearing Second Amendment buttons pinned to maroon shirts.
Erin Zamoff, chapter leader of Moms Demand Action Minnesota, said she thinks momentum is growing. The group had hundreds of supporters rally last week at the Capitol, and a larger demonstration against gun violence overtook the Rotunda days later.
“Legislators are starting to realize this is a voting issue,” Zamoff said. “If they don’t have the courage to vote in these common-sense changes, then we’ll vote in people who do.”