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.”