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Rep. Michael Paymar, top gun-control advocate, won’t run again but will continue the fight

MinnPost file photo by James Nord
Paymar, a nine-term DFLer from St. Paul, is the chairman of the Public Safety Finance Committee.

Rep. Michael Paymar, who became the most passionate voice for stricter gun control measures in Minnesota, announced Wednesday morning that he will not run for re-election next fall.

Paymar, a nine-term DFLer from St. Paul, is the chairman of the Public Safety Finance Committee. It was in that role that he headed contentious hearings earlier this year on a bill that would have increased background checks on those seeking to purchase guns.

The hearings attracted overflow turnouts of both those advocating stricter gun measures and those opposing stricter controls. Many of the foes of Paymar’s efforts came to the hearings carrying weapons.

Although Paymar was able to get a watered-down version of his bill through his committee, in the end he was blocked by DFL House leadership from getting even that bill to the floor for debate. The bill would have faced universal opposition from the Republican minority, but it also faced stiff opposition from rural DFLers.

Paymar expressed his frustration over the process in a post-session op-ed piece in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“It is not surprising the public is cynical about politicians and political parties,” Paymar wrote. “Every year, 12,000 people die from firearm homicides and 18,000 more from firearm suicides and yet our elected officials continue to abdicate their responsibilities.”

But in a conversation with MinnPost this morning, Paymar made it clear that it was not frustration of advancing the gun bill that led to his decision not to run again.

“If anything,’’ he said, “it was because of that [the gun issue] that I nearly decided to run again.”

In his final year in office, he said, he will continue to promote stricter gun control on a couple of fronts.

First, as a member of special legislative committee on security at the state Capitol, he will push for a gun ban in the building, a move that is sure to stir the passions of the pro-gun crowd.

Second, he’ll re-introduce his strong bill calling for stricter background checks. He’s pretty sure that bill won’t go anywhere, “but it’s important to keep talking about the issue.

Patience is a virtue in the Legislature, he said, where issues that are highly controversial today become law in the future.

Paymar cited an example of how times change.

For instance, he noted that in his term in the House, then-Speaker Steve Svigguum led passage of a state Defense of Marriage Act, restricting marriage to a man and a woman. Paymar said he was one of 19 members of the House to vote in opposition. In the last session, of course, the Legislature passed a law allowing same-sex couples to marry.

“Certain issues take time,” Paymar said, adding that he believes the time will come when legislatures will move toward stricter gun-control measures.

Paymar has been a steady advocate of bills aimed at preventing domestic violence and sex trafficking.

Outside the Capitol, he’s written two books on issues surrounding domestic violence, and a third book will be published this spring.

Paymar intends to devote even more of his time to that issue when he leaves the Legislature. He has started a nonprofit, Education for Critical Thinking, which is focused on gender-based violence. That organization produced a critically praised documentary “With Impunity: Men and Gender.”

He intends to involve himself in the issue of domestic violence both nationally and internationally in coming years.

“I’m not just the gun guy,” he said.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Shelley Leeson on 11/21/2013 - 01:09 am.

    Good riddance to this extremist opponent of human rights.

    And BTW, Doug, the hearings did not attract “overflow turnouts of both those advocating stricter gun measures and those opposing stricter controls.”

    The hearing attracted overflow turnouts of hundreds of supporters of human rights, defenders of law abiding citizens and those who want existing laws enforced and criminals held accountable. And, oh yeah, about 10 wingnuts bent on their luddite pro-criminal, anti-rights agenda.

    • Submitted by Bill O'Reilly on 11/21/2013 - 11:04 am.

      Thank you Mr. Paymar for standing up to the bullies and the paranoid luddites. It must have been hard to go to work and see Tony Cornish everyday.

      • Submitted by Matt Touchette on 02/27/2014 - 12:30 pm.

        Based on what I saw, he was the bully.

        Based on the footage I saw from the hearings, Mr. Paymar was the bully. While the pro-gun crowd does have its “bullies and paranoid luddites”, the same can be said for the anti-gun crowd. Mr. Paymar’s agenda and allowed speakers throughout the committee hearings was obviously not neutral or fair to both sides of the argument and the majority of the time and respect was given to the anti-gun proponents.

        At the end of the day, we’re talking about rights, and I find it ironic that Mr. Paymar will defend a couple’s right to marry, regardless of gender, in one instance (advancing their rights as he should), and in the next he’s inhibiting the rights of law abiding citizen’s legal ownership and use of firearms.

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 11/21/2013 - 03:49 am.

    A loss for 64B

    We in MN district 64B will lose an outstanding legislator.

  3. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/21/2013 - 10:53 am.


    Michael Paymar, who is my representative, is a great guy and a great legislator. His leadership, on gun control and on other issues, will be missed.

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