Hilstrom finds that gun bill meant to unite quickly divides

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Hilstrom's bill would prohibit felons from possessing ammunition, create mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent felons who are convinced of possessing firearms on a second offense and make it a felony for individuals to file false reports of lost or stolen firearms.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has discovered again that there is no comfortable middle ground when the subject is guns.

Rep. Deb Hilstrom
Rep. Deb Hilstrom

At noon at the Capitol, Hilstrom, standing with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek and Rep. Tony Cornish, the gun-toting legislator from Good Thunder, introduced a gun bill that she said “can bring people together’’ on the volatile subject of guns.

Her words were still echoing in the Capitol when critics, who had hoped for much stronger actions from the Minnesota Legislature, lambasted the effort of Hilstrom and a bipartisan group of 69 other legislators to “close gaps’’ in current state gun law.

“This is just a band-aid over a huge problem,’’ said Jane Kay of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, an organization formed in the days following the mass shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn. “I’m fed up. I’m angry. We have the opportunity to do great things and this (the bill) doesn’t come close.’’

NRA supports it

The bill has the support of the National Rifle Association, presumably because it does nothing to require background checks on all gun sales and because it does nothing to restrict sales of military-style weapons or even the quantity of rounds in ammunition magazines.

Despite the fact that it’s a bill that authors hoped would unite people, it seems to be dividing. Yes, there was a mix of Republican and DFL representatives standing with Hilstrom, Cornish and Stanek. Other than Stanek and the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, there were no law-enforcement organizations represented at the news conference where the proposal was unveiled. There also were no DFL senators, though presumably the bill will be as attractive to outstate senators as it appears to be to many outstate DFL representatives.

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, and the chairman of the House public safety committee, has indicated he has no desire to have the bill heard by his committee. Paymar is pushing a bill that would require purchasers of guns at flea markets and gun shows to go through background checks.

Yet, given the large number of co-authors with Hilstrom, there likely are ways for the bill to weave its way through the legislative process.

What it does

What the bill does, Hilstrom and Stanek said, is prohibit felons from possessing ammunition, create mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent felons who are convinced of possessing firearms on a second offense and make it a felony for individuals to file false reports of lost or stolen firearms.

Additionally, it “improves criminal data sharing’’ between the state and feds. The goal, in that case, is to keep guns out of the hands of those with a history of mental illness.

“Never should a person deemed mentally ill have access to a gun,’’ said Stanek, emphasizing the importance of better sharing of mental-health data with the feds.

Stanek said the bill includes important “incremental change’’ in state gun law.

‘My role is to be a peacemaker’

Cornish, usually a lightning rod in the gun debate, said he was taking a different role regarding the fate of this bill.

 “Several of  my statements (in the past) have been controversial,’’ he said. “Today my role is to be a peacemaker.’’

No sooner had he said that than he uttered a statement that raises the hackles of those hoping for stronger gun measures.

“I want to thank the NRA for helping (on the bill),’’ he said.  He went on to say that the bill “contains nothing for gun owners to fear.’’

Hilstrom, in her seventh term, refused to talk about her true feelings of the bill. Rather, she kept speaking of the importance of “passing a bill that will solve real problems.’’

She did point out that she never has sought the endorsement of the NRA and that in the past she has received a “C,’’ “D,’’ and “F’’ from the NRA.

‘I’m looking for solutions’

“My goal is to come here and be a problem solver,’’ Hilstrom said. “I’m looking for solutions.’’

Critics weren’t generous.

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, derided the bill as “NRA-approved.’’

“Any bill that fails to address the gaping holes in our background check law falls far short of the public’s demand for the right to be safe in our communities,’’ Martens said in a statement.

Clarification: Language in this version makes clear that besides Stanek’s organization, no other law-enforcement groups were present.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 03/06/2013 - 05:23 pm.

    What divide?

    Two quick points:

    This bill has co-authors that are bi-partisan that make up more than half of the House. The bills that Rep. Paymar is proposing have no more than a handful of co-sponsors. Which one is uniting? Which is dividing?

    The quote from Jane Kay is interesting. It might be worth your time to look at how many members her organization actually has. Across multiple days of hearings, she was the only person that ever spoke on behalf of her organization — and there were only a handful of supporters of the pro-gun control agenda on any given day.

    GOCRA, the MN Gun Owner’s Civil Rights Alliance, on the other hand, had hundreds of supporters at the Capitol for each day of hearings.

    Which side really has the popular support in this fight? I think that’s pretty clear.

  2. Submitted by Andrew Rothman on 03/06/2013 - 05:29 pm.

    “…there were no law-enforcement organizations represented”?

    Did you not see the four Sheriffs, including Stanek, Olson, and Hartog, standing in front, representing the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, which does indeed support the bill?

    Here’s the video. You can hear Sheriff Stanek say that he is speaking for the Sheriffs Association.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHeazofiWQ8

  3. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/06/2013 - 05:30 pm.

    I Just Wonder

    Why some people hate America so much that they perpetuate laws that allow terrorists to buys guns at gun shows and flea markets.

    Patriots don’t allow terrorists to arm themselves with American guns.

  4. Submitted by steven bursaw on 03/07/2013 - 07:32 am.

    No divide

    Just as stated before, when there is a bill that is bi-partisan and another that is not, which is the bill that divides? The bill that Rep Hilstrom authored is one that brings together from both parties so something can and will get done to further punish and toughen laws against the criminals with guns, not the law abiding citizen (which Paymars bill would do).

  5. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 03/08/2013 - 01:23 pm.

    Gun Control

    I wish people like Paymar, Jane Kay and others would tell us exactly how their proposals will work, who is going to pay for it and particularly how much violence it is going to stop. Enacting another law like the drug laws, prohibition and some others that never worked isn’t going to any good unless they actually work. I have asked Paymar several times how his proposal is going to work and he won’t tell anyone. As an HR professional, I am really curious how their background checks are going to get around HIPAA. Privacy of medical records falls under a very strict federal law to the point where medical facilities, insurance companies and employers can’t even discuss it between themselves when it directly affects them. Employers have to keep medical records under separate lock and key, and that includes psychological records and mental health records. So until I hear how they are going to get around that, it sounds to me like they are blowing smoke.

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