A recent Minnesota Senate hearing reignited the debate surrounding the state’s firearm laws and prompted DFL lawmakers to renew their calls for red flag legislation and universal background checks.
The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee held a hearing last week on “current laws designed to prevent violence.”
According to a press release from Senate Republicans, the December 19 hearing consisted of testimony from “non-partisan senate staff about Minnesota’s current laws that dictate when a person can or cannot possess a firearm.” Lawmakers also discussed how to “protect people from domestic violence through restraining and protective orders” and how to “afford individuals due process before removing guns from their homes.”
“We’ve seen an increase of violent behaviors and interactions over the last year,” said Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), chair of the committee. “Today’s hearing is meant to give us a baseline of knowledge regarding current laws that respond to a rising level of violence I continue to hear about.”
Limmer said the committee will hold another hearing on January 21 to discuss specific proposals in the Senate aimed at addressing gun violence.
DFL legislators immediately criticized Republicans for their “inaction” on gun control. The DFL Party went so far as to call last week’s meeting a “fake hearing on gun safety.”
“Today’s hearing was a sham designed to hide the fact that Senate Republicans like Dan Hall and Jerry Relph have spent the last year blocking all gun safety reform,” said DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin. “An overwhelming majority of Minnesotans across the state and the political spectrum support reforms like universal background checks, yet Senate Republicans refuse to take action and protect Minnesotans from gun violence.”
“After today’s hearing, one thing remains perfectly clear: Republicans will continue to block any new gun safety legislation as long as they control the State Senate,” he continued.
DFL members of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee called on Republicans to consider two gun-control bills introduced last session. The first would allow law enforcement officers to seek a court order to temporarily remove firearms from a person who is considered a danger to themselves or others, commonly called a “red flag law.”
The second bill would extend criminal background checks to most private gun sales, gun show markets, and online transactions.
“Today’s hearing on Minnesota’s current gun laws will provide further evidence that these laws are inadequate in separating violent people from obtaining and possessing firearms,” said Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), sponsor of both bills. “These bills will reduce gun violence without infringing on an individual’s Second Amendment rights.”
Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) accused Senate Republicans of “extreme obstructionism” that cuts the “public out of the entire legislative process.”
“Not one bill aimed at gun violence prevention was even considered in the Senate this year,” added Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook). “That means there was not one opportunity for senators or the public to share their views or offer amendments to make the bills better. Support for any new laws will depend on these public conversations.”
Latz called a press conference after last week’s hearing with a number of gun-control advocates and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
“It seems to me this is more political window dressing than it is a serious attempt to address gun violence in Minnesota,” Latz said during the press conference.
The full hearing can be watched below:
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