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Gun advocates vent over proposed restrictions on assault weapons

Wednesday’s heated session — Day 2 of legislative hearings — showed just how deep the rift is between the two sides.

NRA lobbyist Chris Rager said lawmakers should focus on real solutions.
MinnPost photo by James Nord

Tim Jezierski was away at work when a man called his home and threatened to kill his wife and family. She started loading the guns.

“He said he was going to come and shoot them,” Jezierski said, but the police didn’t want to investigate because it was just a threat over the phone. He got his wife out of the house, and he isn’t sure if the man ever showed up to harm her, but the Two Harbors firearm instructor wasn’t impressed with the police’s response.

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He’s also displeased with lawmakers in St. Paul for considering a proposal to ban assault weapons in Minnesota.

Jezierski was one of many gun-rights advocates who pushed back hard Wednesday against the proposed legislation, which received an informational hearing in the House Public Safety Committee as part of Gun Week at the Capitol.

“It’s putting lipstick on a pig … We’re doing things. We’re saying, ‘Look what we did — we made things safer,’ when we’ve done nothing with this bill but disarm honest citizens,” Jezierski said.

St. Paul Rep. Michael Paymar, who chairs the committee, is considering legislation for a potential omnibus gun bill. The group heard proposals to expand background checks and to grant local police more authority when granting permits on Tuesday.

Rep. Michael Paymar
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Rep. Michael Paymar, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, asked for the audience to remain respectful.

Wednesday’s heated hearing showed just how deep the rift is between gun control advocates and supporters of gun owners’ rights. Both sides clashed over whether the guns in question are sport rifles for hunting and competition or assault rifles for mass murder —and whether they’re welcome in Minnesota.

“Simply put, the only real use for these tools is in fact to kill our fellow citizens, and they are the preferred tools of the mass killer,” said John Egelhof, a retired FBI officer. “The bloody reality is the absence of these weapons and components would lower the lethality of these killers.”

Rapport between the two sides took a turn for the worse on Wednesday as gun advocates’ frustration boiled over after just a day of hearings.

Under consideration was a bill from Rep. Alice Hausman, who left the committee shortly after outlining the measure. The measure would require assault weapons to be rendered unusable, turned over to police or registered with the state.

“This is really preposterous,” said Rep. Tony Cornish, an outspoken gun advocate.

The crowd, as large as the one that filled the hearing room on Tuesday, cheered multiple times when Republican lawmakers pushed back against supporters of the ban.

“This firearms ban, it’s failed policy. It’s been tried before,” Chris Rager, a lobbyist for the NRA, told the committee, noting that lawmakers should focus on “real solutions.”

Paymar, who appeared a little relieved that the meeting was over with, said he appreciated the discussion. There was so much testimony that consideration for Hausman’s other bill, a measure to ban high-capacity magazines, had to be postponed.

While it’s unlikely that either proposal will make it into any final legislation, gun supporters weren’t taking any chances.

“This hearing was almost outlandish. They were claiming that the NRA and gun owners are paranoid about eventual confiscation, but that’s in this bill,” Cornish said. “Registration and confiscation are in the bill, so how we can be paranoid if we think that’s coming eventually? It is here. People are actually after your guns, and so the paranoia has proved to be prophetic.”