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Gun-control advocates push Thissen for vote on ‘doomed’ background-check bill

MinnPost photo by James Nord
The Minnesota Gun Violence Prevention Coalition staged a rally/press conference on Friday to demand House Speaker Paul Thissen allow the measure to come up for a vote. Rabbi Amy Eilberg of Jewish Community Action addresses supporters.

Gun-control advocates pushed back on Friday against the House DFL leadership’s decision to scrap any sort of firearm safety legislation this session.

They called for a vote on the issue regardless of its chances for passage or potential political consequences for lawmakers.

House Speaker Paul Thissen told reporters on Wednesday that the embattled gun safety measures that St. Paul DFL Rep. Michael Paymar has been laboring over all session didn’t have the political support in the DFL caucus to move forward.

The biggest disappointment for gun-safety supporters was the loss of the opportunity to pass a so-called “universal background check” bill this session.

That measure had already been in trouble for some time in the House, and Paymar had to pass a pared-down version of his legislation out of committee to keep it alive for a potential floor vote, which he says Thissen promised would happen.

The Minnesota Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, which encompasses the main people and organizations working for firearm regulation in Minnesota, staged a rally/press conference on Friday to demand Thissen allow the measure to come up for a vote.

Thissen, who was involved in Friday’s House floor session, was not immediately available to comment.

“It seems to me that Speaker Thissen is trying to protect the caucus,” said Sami Rahamim, whose father, Reuven Rahamim, was killed in the Accent Signage shooting last year.

Rahamim posed a tough question for Thissen and the rural Democrats who tanked the gun-control bill: Does the DFL House caucus need protecting, or “hardworking citizens like my father?”

Advocates for more regulations stressed that polling shows the public supports such measures as universal background checks, which would regulate the private sale of firearms at gun shows and over the Internet, among other avenues.

They said that gun-safety supporters have already given up ground to the National Rifle Association and other firearm interests in dropping their call for bans on so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The universal background check measures represented an adequate compromise, they said.

“With the will of the majority behind us, we believed our state would pass a universal background check bill” this session, said Jane Kay, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “That has all been swept aside.”

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, which lobbied lawmakers extensively on the issue, said Thissen should bring the measure up for a vote, even if it is doomed to fail.

“I think he has a responsibility to reconsider that decision,” she said.

House supporters like Paymar had a tough road ahead of them when it appeared Thissen would let the measure move forward procedurally. The Senate, which faced an easier path, was expected to lead the charge while the House worked to win over a group of rural Democrats who were the key to the measure’s success or failure.

Vic Rosenthal, executive director of Jewish Community Action, said Minnesotans deserve to know where their elected officials stand on the universal background check issue.

Thissen, for his part, has said lawmakers don’t need a vote to explain to Minnesotans how they feel about an issue. Paymar has said since the beginning that he’d like a public vote on the issue no matter what.

“There’s a short supply of accountability these days,” Rosenthal said. “There should be a vote so we know where people stand.”

Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Richard Voorhees on 05/03/2013 - 03:30 pm.

    guns and weapons

    Guns used for hunting are not an issue.

    Guns and weapons being universally registered and otherwise confiscated, as in Australia, is not an issue–unfortunately.

    Gun and weapon collecting, like stamp collecting, may be an issue. Perhaps it is not important that the collection be operable.

    The background checks and registration of weapons, of guns to be used against invading persons, appears to be the issue.

    This suggests a widespread unwarranted fear.

    • Submitted by Joe Reeser on 05/04/2013 - 03:18 pm.

      Not an issue?

      AR-15s are used for hunting. Not that it matters. You say, “Guns used for hunting are not an issue,” and then in the very next sentence say you wish to have universal registration and confiscation. So obviously, either your first or second statement is false. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess it’s your first statement.

      I would agree there is a “widespread unwarranted fear” but I’m quite sure we disagree as to who fears what.

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/03/2013 - 03:31 pm.

    “Up or down” vote

    I gathered from an article in yesterday’s MinnPost from a comment by Mr. Paymar that the background check law was being iced to spare the DFL a likely defeat of his bill on the floor. I believe the public is entitled to an “up or down” vote on this important issue. The public is entitled to know what their elected officials stand for. The DFL leadership needs to stop providing “cover” to its members from taking public stands on important issues just because they are “hot button” issues.

    in my opinion, although the issue is called “gun control” and background checks, it’s really the NRA itself which is the problem here. This is all about being intimidated and bullied by the NRA and the DFL leadership trying to provide some protection from the expected onslaught of NRA attack ads. The only way one wins against bullies is by not backing down when they try to bully. Which is the very point of having the vote now. The public overwhelming supports background checks. If this bill is a loser because politicians who know that but don’t want their true positions known, then the public is entitled to know that too. Any politician who has less than a 100% approval rating from the NRA who votes against the background check bill is worse than the politician who votes his/her conviction in my opinion. Is there any doubt the NRA will use this delay as evidence of a “victory” in the next election? Does anybody believe that by kicking this issue down the road they are going to get 100% approval rating from the NRA? A politician not willing to take the heat for voting a certain way is simply not doing what they were elected to do.

    • Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 05/03/2013 - 03:58 pm.

      What Jon Erik Kinstad said.

      Hear. Hear.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/03/2013 - 11:14 pm.

      ” it’s really the NRA itself which is the problem here.”


      I think a good Litmus test for the influence of the NRA is to consider the success of the candidates that the NRA backed in 2012. Who did they sweep into office?

      If there is such overwhelming public support for background checks, as you claim, it would surely follow that DFL legislators would be proud to sport a low ranking from the NRA. The unpopular truth with some liberals with whom I have spoken about this issue is that many of their fellow-DFLers aren’t as gun-grabby as they wish they were.

      Look at who controls the Minnesota House and Senate, and who lives in the Governor’s mansion, and do the math.

      • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/04/2013 - 05:24 pm.

        Litmus tests

        That’s certainly one litmus test: of how unpopular – indeed, I would say despised is not too strong a word- the NRA is as an organization and symbol of disproportionate power and influence. But you can’t talk about “litmus tests” when the influence is devious and hard to measure. The NRA’s influence reaches far beyond its ability to promote candidates. It relies on intimidation and bullying from the disinformation campaign attack ads to its astroturf activities and letter writing campaigns by “tea party patriots.” You know, the ones who turn up at town hall meetings exercising their “Second Amendment rights.” Sure. You measure this in terms of how many more dollars does a politician who fails to toe the line on certain measures have to raise to counter the lies spewed by this evil organization in its campaign attack ads? What kind of litmus test do you have for that?

        Read what Rep. Paymar has had to endure as a sponsor of this extremely reasonable regulation: death threats and intimidation. No, sir, it’s the NRA and its members who are the problem here. They apparently don’t know the meaning of a “civil society.”

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/04/2013 - 09:39 pm.

          That’s quite a vast right wing conspiracy

          So, I am to believe that the NRA is unable to get their candidates elected, but behind the scenes they call the shots of the candidates that they campaigned against and labeled with “F” letter grades. Dry that one out, and you could fertilize the lawn all summer.

          The most oft parroted alleged poll is that 90% or 91% of Americans are in favor of “universal background checks”, whatever that may mean. So, go ahead and get it done. The DFL rules the House, the Senate, and they have the Governor too. What are you waiting for?

          • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/05/2013 - 04:47 pm.

            What I’m waiting for

            You choose to ignore everything I wrote. I did not write “behind the scenes [the NRA calls] the sots of the candidates that they campaigned against.”
            What I wrote was that the NRA and its members use intimidation and bullying to achieve their agenda. And it’s working. Which is one reason the DFL leadership won’t call an “up or down” vote on background checks. The other, lesser reason is that with the majority as you show it, they will still vote it down. Despite the public support of the ban. The reason they will vote it down is also because of fear of the NRA and its supporters. Not all, but enough, is fear of the not small enough number of NRA members who would be deprived of the ability to buy guns with background checks because of their unstable mental conditions.

            But the greater fear is the disproportionate influence on elections by the NRA’s campaign attacks,. The NRA is a single issue lobbying entity which is part of the larger network of right wing groups has large pools of funding to spend on attack ads and disinformation campaigns. I believe DFL legislators who vote against universal background checks will do so not because they are opposed but because they are afraid of being targeted by one of these campaigns if they vote what they actually believe. Better to vote what they think will appease the NRA. But better yet to not vote at all.

            I’ll say this: if there’s never any vote, we’ll never know, will we? What I’m waiting for is the DFL now in control of the House and Senate to lay their card on the table and, tell us what they think with their vote on this bill. If they vote it down, I’m waiting to hear their lame explanations for their votes. What I’m waiting for is that vote and the enactment of universal background checks into law. That and eventually a ban on assault weapons, magazine clips and handguns.

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/06/2013 - 07:42 am.


              I am aware of what you wrote, I just find it implausible. I do agree with you that DFL leadership owes the people of Minnesota an up or down vote. There is always Initiative and Referendum; bypass the Capitol and go directly to the voters. If you believe the polls claiming 90% are in favor of universal background checks, how could it fail?

              Just to be sure I understand your position, stated in your last post. The legislature is bullied by 10% of the people, who are afflicted with “unstable mental conditions” and their well funded ally the NRA. We all know that one thing that people with “unstable mental conditions” do is generate large amounts of excess cash.

              Looking to blame a bogey man, whether it be the NRA, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, or a host of the other usual suspects, avoids coming to grips with the truth. The legislature is behold to the people, and there is not the popular support for more gun control laws.

              “That and eventually a ban on assault weapons, magazine clips and handguns.” Perhaps you are on to something with part of this idea. If you ban magazines, it will hamper the use of rifles and handguns. Another referendum for the ballot?

  3. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 05/04/2013 - 07:09 am.

    Political Cover

    I was told by three different legislators at the capitol yesterday that this was indeed political cover for the Democrats. For the first time, I am ashamed to be a member of that party. Speaker Thiessen has determined it is more expedient to protect his collegues’ political capital than the lives of Minnesota citizens. How can voters make an informed decision on this issue when there is no recorded vote?

  4. Submitted by Mike Downing on 05/04/2013 - 08:25 am.

    Gun control has been tried and it did not work well for the masses in Germany with Hitler or in Russia with Stalin.

    Gun control has not worked well in Chicago or in Washington D.C. as well.

    Gun control really is people control.

  5. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 05/04/2013 - 08:28 am.

    Background checks

    All the uneducated antigun people seem to think that gun owners are fearful of something. For me personally that is not true. I am opposed to background checks because nobody can tell me how background checks are going to work or prevent anything. I was a police officer for 21 years and did hundreds of background checks, and the only way one can do and accurate background check is with a properly executed fingerprint card. Name and DOB or DL number is not accurate. Also what about the criminals who haven’t been caught and arrested yet? Background checks are a waste of time and money. FYI the clearance rate on burglaries is 19%, the clearance rate on armed robberies is only 29%.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 05/04/2013 - 10:25 am.

    The voting citizen of

    The voting citizen of Minnesota deserve to see where the elected representatives stand. An Up or Down vote is why you legislators are in that position. If you are afraid to ‘come out’, then you do not deserve to be in the Mn. Legislature.

  7. Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 05/04/2013 - 10:34 am.

    Gun Control Lacks Popular Support in MN

    The reason this legislation did not pass is because it lacked popular support.

    Protect Minnesota has only a handful of members. MOMS DEMAND ACTION has even less members. They consist of paid, professional lobbyists, funded by out of state anti-gun interests.

    Regardless of what they’re claiming, both of these groups argued on behalf of legislation that banned commonly used firearms, established confiscation requirements for firearms at death, required allowing police into your home on a regular basis to inspect your “firearms storage”, and so on. They argued only in support of divisive gun banning legislation that impacted law abiding gun owners.

    Even the “universal background check” bill they’re squealing about had onerous requirements and would have had *next to no* impact on crime.

    The best bill that used *tried and true solutions* to impact gun violence was Representative Hilstrom’s Bill – which never had a hearing, never had a vote, but yet enjoyed strong bi-partisan support in both chambers – along with law enforcement support.

    Instead, Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action openly mocked the bill.

    Their agenda is clear – they are after the guns – and not at all interested in reducing gun violence.

  8. Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 05/04/2013 - 01:42 pm.

    I’d be delighted to do the math: on which legislators are too cowardly to vote for even the minimal background-check beginnings of control of gun violence. So far, starting with Rep. Thissen, they are all cowards in this regard because they are wiping their brows in relief that they don’t have to vote at all. Whew!

    I want to know how each House member votes on the Paymar bill, and then we’ll see who is cowed by the NRA and some loud gun owners in their districts (gun owners who are loud are not necessarily the majority of voters). And who cares about gun violence in Minnesota and ways to decrease it.

    Let’s count heads on this.

  9. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 05/04/2013 - 03:00 pm.


    No wonder our elected officials are looked at with such scorn. Most voters–even gun owners–want this kind of protection such as background checks and banning assault rifles. So why does NRA’s money outweigh the popular opinion?

  10. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/05/2013 - 09:25 am.

    We have to stop talking about the NRA

    and start talking about the manufacturers of guns. The NRA is nothing more than a very highly paid shield for the gun manufacturers. If we start talking about the gun manufacturers, change will happen more quickly because they don’t want their company names tarnished. Right now they are enjoying the hysteria drummed up by the NRA, because their company profits are soaring while the NRA is thought of as the bad guys, not them. If hunters need AR-15s to hunt with then I suggest they work on their marksmanship so they will learn to aim rather than just spraying the woods with lead in hopes of hitting something. Aiming will allow them to use a traditional weapon to hunt with vs. the need for an assault rifle.

  11. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 05/05/2013 - 12:40 pm.

    Bryan Strawser…..

    Stop spinning…….They never voted….that is what people are upset about.

    • Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 05/06/2013 - 09:27 pm.

      I’m not spinning, I’m speaking the truth.

      Heather Martens is a paid, professional lobbyist. Her organization, Protect Minnesota, is primarily funded by out of state financial donations – not by the citizens of Minnesota.

      The Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, or GOCRA, that did most of the work in turning out members and voters at the hearings – has no paid staff, no paid lobbyists, only volunteers, and raises money from folks in this state.

      Who really represents the people? Hint: It’s not Protect Minnesota.

      All that said, I’m all for a vote. I’d love for the DFL folks in rural districts to get their vote on the record. In 2014, they’ll get ousted the same way that DFL folks that opposed the carry law got voted out in 2002.

      Is that what you’re after?

  12. Submitted by T J Simplot on 05/06/2013 - 07:55 am.

    What I find interesting…

    about the whole gun control debate is that the Newtown shooting has been the root of it. The Newtown shooter tried to buy a gun but his background check was denied so he shot his mom and took her guns. Didn’t background checks work in that case.

    p.s. I’m not a gun owner nor a member of the NRA. Just asking an honest question.

  13. Submitted by Ann Richards on 05/06/2013 - 08:51 am.

    The success of the NRA

    is not measured by who they swept in to office, but rather by some of the comments expressed here……Steve says ‘gun-grabby’ that is point one for the NRA.

    And Mikes comments about gun control not working in Germany or Chicago…….point 2…..but an old red herring argument. As if you can take out a tank with your weapon. And as far as our cities, those guns come from all over.

    And why is universal registration called gun control? Point 3 for the NRA.

    Members of Congress who voted against recent legislation still argue they voted against the government having a record of who owns guns-the govt doesn’t have that info nor was it going to…. big point 4 for the NRA

    Volume and distortion trumps everything………and that is what the NRA counts on.
    What I don’t understand is why the NRA doesn’t push for locking up guns. The 5 years old who shot and killed his 3 year old sister picked up his loaded gun from a corner of the room. Why don’t we hold owners responsible for the guns stolen that were not locked up……..or home accidents because children had access. Or does the NRA have such contempt for non-members that they won’t waste their time on a simple solution to many needless deaths?

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/06/2013 - 09:52 am.

      What about the national conversation …

      … on guns we were invited to by President Obama?

      You may choose to believe that every position not well aligned with yours was invented by the NRA, but it just isn’t so. The DFL, who controls all state government, Senate, House, Governor, Attorney General, needs to take a look within, and be honest about why that can’t get done what you think is necessary.

      Continue to blame it on the NRA or any other bogey man you like, and you will continue this avoidance behavior of honestly addressing the issue.

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