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Contentious 'Gun Week' ends, but more legislative hearings and debate await

Heather Martens, head of the anti-gun group Protect Minnesota
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Heather Martens, head of the anti-gun group Protect Minnesota: "If they passed any of these bills, that would be a tremendous step forward."

Legislators’ Gun Week sprint is over, but the real marathon has just begun.

A House committee heard hours of powerful testimony over the past three days on gun control proposals — ranging from requiring universal background checks to a state assault weapons ban — that some Democrats hope to turn into a meaningful package in the coming weeks.

Key DFL legislators have been discussing gun control and violence prevention efforts since the mid-December shootings in Newtown, Conn.

“If they passed any of these bills, that would be a tremendous step forward because it’s been a long time that we haven’t even been allowed to talk about prevention of gun violence,” said Heather Martens, head of the anti-gun group Protect Minnesota. “We’ve seen too many years of denial.”

Lots of proposals

Urban and suburban DFLers put forward a raft of legislation for discussion in the House Public Safety Committee that would:

  • Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
  • Give authority to police chiefs to issue permits
  • Require universal background checks on gun purchases and close the so-called “gun-show loophole”
  • Grant local police more flexibility when considering a permit to purchase or carry a firearm
  • Equalize penalties for carrying a firearm in a school or a business that prohibits guns
  • Keep guns out of the hands of juveniles and allow prosecutors to go after ammunition, as well as keep firearms away from people who have been privately committed
  • Require a permit to own body armor.

St. Paul Rep. Michael Paymar, who heads the House Public Safety Committee, said he called the meetings to hear from Minnesotans about their thoughts on potential gun legislation.

Paymar to work on omnibus bill

Now that the exhaustive listening sessions are over — no votes or amendments were taken — the committee will work toward an omnibus “gun-violence prevention bill,” as Paymar calls it.

“I’m tired,” he said with a laugh after the final four hours of testimony wrapped up Thursday night. “It’s been an exhausting three days, but it’s been helpful. We had some bills that were controversial, obviously, and the committee is going to have to take a good hard look at all of the bills and decide what they want to come up with.”

The proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were the most contentious pieces of legislation.

Paymar, who said he personally supports the bans, repeatedly declined to speculate about the final firearms proposal, which could receive a vote early next month.

St. Paul Rep. Michael Paymar
MinnPost photo by James NordSt. Paul Rep. Michael Paymar: "It's been an exhausting three days, but it's been helpful."

Martens said it’s likely that Paymar’s universal background check bill will “be a focus for the committee” because the concept enjoys widespread public support. “I would expect to see that.”

Some of that uncertainty involves House lawmakers waiting to see how the Senate will proceed.

Senate hearings later this month

The Senate Judiciary Committee will have its own, compressed Gun Week at the end of the month.

Sen. Ron Latz, chairman of the committee, said in a Thursday interview that he anticipates following the House approach in combining multiple bills into a single package. There’s no guarantee, though, that the Senate will consider identical legislation.

The St. Louis Park lawmaker also supports the ammo and weapon ban “concepts” but agreed it’s too early to know which bills will make it into that chamber’s final legislation.

Gun-rights supporters, hundreds strong, mounted an impressive show of force against the proposals this week, and they intend to continue their lobbying efforts.

“We will spend the next two weeks organizing people,” said Joseph Olson, president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance.

 “There are some legislators on every committee that it’s a waste of time to talk to. Tthere are other legislators that are already on your side and then there are those who are in the middle,” he said. “And we will be putting a tremendous effort on making sure that those in the middle understand exactly what they’re doing and what the consequences of it are going to be.”

Hamline professor Joseph Olson
MinnPost photo by James NordJoseph Olson, president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance: "We will spend the next two weeks organizing people."

Rural Democrats appear to be key to any gun legislation’s future.

Core support for gun control measures in the House, at least, currently comes from urban and suburban Democrats, with opposition from many Republicans. If rural DFLers are absent from a vote count, the proposals likely will go nowhere.

And that appears to be the case, Capitol Chatter reports.

“It’s a good thing to vent, but it’s not going anywhere,” Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, told the publication.

The assault weapons ban and restrictions on magazine size appear to be the specific proposals least likely to move forward, according to some DFL lawmakers and other observers.

 “We’re willing to work on real solutions,” Chris Rager, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said in an interview Thursday night. “Like what we’re hearing with these two bills tonight, there’s isn’t much support for that here in the Legislature.”

Sen. Latz hadn’t spoken to his colleagues specifically regarding the bans, but said, “It is not a surprise to me that there’s a little more concern among them.”

When Paymar adjourned the final committee meeting at 10 p.m., a line of people waiting to comment stretched up an aisle almost to the back wall.

He had repeatedly held folks to a three-minute time limit, but even after hours of testimony, the line barely seemed to shrink.

For the third straight day, the room was filled with a sea of pro-gun forces bearing yellow buttons that declared, “Self defense is a human right.”

“This is just a preview of what you’re going to see if this bill gets any legs,” one of the final folks to testify told the committee.

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Comments (5)

Ginny

Do hunters use assault weapons and high-capacity magazines? If not what is their use?
No one is proposing to do away with gun rights. But gun rights, like any other right, is subject to some constraints. Our first right is the right to live and feel safe, and many of us feel less and less safe.
I really cannot figure out why gun owners are opposed to things like registration. EVERYTHING else is registered and has some regulations. Guns are meant for one thing only: to kill. Most people use them to kill deer or geese, but there are those who really do want to kill people--specific people who have "wronged" them, or government representatives, or just out of rage in general.
Gun owners: stop with the paranoia and support reasonable measures.

Gun control

The biggest problem with gun control advocates is that they know nothing at all about firearms. During my law enforcement career which spanned 25 years and 3 states I testified in courts many times as an expert in the area of firearms and ballistics. When I hear some of the statements by the advocates, I can only sit back and laugh, because their statements are so far off base that there ignorance shows through. The biggest misconception is that the civilian version of the M16, the AR15 is a very powerful assault rifle. First of all the AR15 and similar rifles do not meet the definition of an assault rifle and secondly it is under powered compared to eve the old 30-30. The muzzle energy of a .223 AR15 is 1237 ft/lbs of energy, less then many handguns and a 1000 ft/lbs less than the old 30-30. The AR in AR15 does not stand for automatic rifle, it stands for Armalite which is the company that invented the M15 back in the late 50's. If they would stop making false or ignorant statements maybe people wouldn't get so upset.

What is their use?

A recent DHS Solicitation answers your question perfectly.

Personal Defense Weapons Solicitation
Solicitation Number: HSCEMS-12-R-00011
Agency: Department of Homeland Security

Quoting the solicitation "5.56x45mm NATO, select-fire firearm suitable for personal defense." - please look it up yourself if you like:
https://www.fbo.gov/?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=d791b6aa0fd9d3d8833b2efa...

The solicitation is for thousands of these "assault weapons".

There are many of us who understand our safety is our responsibility, and while we are grateful to the men and women who put themselves in harms way to increase our safety, this does not relieve us of our responsibility.

Once you come to understand that personal safety is an individual responsibility, whom better to look to for guidance on how to protect one's self than those entrusted to provide safety? The DHS buys these "assault weapons" because they are suitable for personal defense. They believe this so strongly they are buying them by the thousands.

How can you on one hand argue that the people who you demand keep you safe should be so armed, then on the other hand argue that those of us who take personal responsibility for our safety be denied being so armed?

Feeling safe is a choice. There is no mention within the constitution or any amendment thereof regarding the assurance of the citizen to feel safe. I take steps to ensure I feel safe. That is my responsibility. You state that "many of us feel less and less safe". I would feel comfortable assuming that the majority of those you choose to represent with that statement are people who choose to rely on others to provide for their safety, rather than take personal responsibility for it.

The uninformed (response to Ginny)

First off Ginny, what you have to understand is that the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States has nothing to do with Hunting and has to do with the citizens having the ability to protect ourselves from all threats wether that be another individual, a foreign power and yes, even our own government.

Before you go off half cocked and support every willy nilly proposal that comes up maybe it would be helpful if you informed yourself. First off the bans on assault STYLE weapons is just plain silly and will have no impact on crimes and infact will only whittle away at the rights of law abiding citizens. An assault STYLE weapon is functionally the exact same as any semi-auto hunting rifle or shotgun and not full auto like depicted in the movies.

Why do they propose to ban body armor, is it so that the police can kill us easier? I have yet to see a case of where body armor has harmed anyone.

Why would they propose to have the local law enforcement have final say in issuing gun permits? We have already tried that and it amounts to letting unelcted government employees basically denying permits based on their own personal ideology and violating our rights. In the city of Bloomingtonin thewe early nineties, it was only the Police chiefs wife that was allowed to have a pistol permit as all other applicants were denied.

Why do the police have automatic weapons and more? Do they not operate in the same world that you and I do?

There all kinds of silly laws that are being proposed that will do absolutely nothing to curb gun violence because criminals do not care about the law and break them on a regular basis. With respect to the Sandy Hook shootings, Conneticut already has a state assault weapons ban in place, The shootings too place in a Gun Free Zone in a state where Murder is also against the law and you somehow believe that another set of laws will protect Yourself when you choose not to be armed.

I for one choose to be armed so that I can protect myself and not wait til some police officer who may or may not have time to respond and yes, I shall protect you too if the need arises.The police have a name for the unarmed that get attaced and that is Vic. All too often Vic is on a short ride to the coroners office.

And finally, there is always the tyranny of government to consider. As the government tentacles creep into our lives with each and every law it encats and then grants itself exemptions from those same laws it takes on a new shape that may someday have to be stopped. Recently in Woodbury there were three police officers who shot and killed an unarmed man that was escaping from a hotel room where He had been held hostage and as he exited the hotel room they opened fire. Then there was a Grand Jury that refused to indite these same police officers. You really should see how a Grand Jury is handled (yes, I say handled because the outcome is pretty much pre-detirmined) and is nothing more than a political tool to be used as cover. The firends and family of that slain person will never see justice ever.

Now compare that to the Grandfather in Rochester, Mn that recently shot his own granddaugter as she was sneakingback into the house. He thought that he had a stranger breaking into his house and was protecting himself and his property. Unlike the Woodbury Victim shot by the police, she survived but, her Granfather has been charged with a Felony. Where ius the justice I ask? Why do we have to accept that the Police are just Doing their jobs and are exempt? It's not just the police either, if a child custody worker takes a child from someone and places tthem with someone who abuses them then there is no recourse there either as they were just "doing their jobs".

There may come a time when these inequities need to be addressed and I for one prefer to be armed.

St. Paul Rep. Michael Paymar:

St. Paul Rep. Michael Paymar will not respond when asked about his qualifications to head this committee and his knowledge about fire arms. His egotistical elite attitude leads me to believe he knows nothing at all about firearms or police work and I doubt he is qualified to e head of this committee. All elected officials should lay their qualifications out to the public any time they are asked. As a retired police officer it is clear to me, that Paymar knows absolutely nothing about background checks, has not read the carry law and certainly shouldn't be the head of a public safety committee. I also asked him if he was a member of any radical anti gun group such as the Jewish Anti Defamation League and he has again not responded. His none response can only be construed as a yes.