Compared with most State Capitol protests, the overnight sit-in on the Minnesota House floor instigated by first-term Apple Valley DFL Rep. Erin Maye Quade was small, quiet — and compelling. The small Tuesday-to-Wednesday encampment protested the Legislature’s inaction on measures intended to keep guns out of dangerous hands.
After Maye Quade announced her hastily planned vigil, well-wishers trooped to the Capitol to bring sustenance and encouragement to five legislators who spent the night and others who joined them for a time. Impromptu rallies by gun safety advocates drew scores of supporters to the House’s doors both Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
At the vigil’s end, Rep. Erin Murphy — a DFL candidate for governor — paid tribute to Maye Quade and the other vigil-keepers. Her remarks were met with sustained applause from DFLers and silence from most Republicans. Only one GOP legislator, Rep. Dario Anselmo of Edina, joined the sit-in Tuesday. (Anselmo lost his mother, Barbara Lund, to gun violence in 1992.)
That partisan divide over gun policy in the GOP-controlled Legislature has been an obstacle for bills, such as those that would require background checks for additional gun purchases and allow courts to temporarily deprive dangerous people of guns. But Republicans cannot be oblivious to a new Star Tribune poll that showed strong support among Minnesotans for gun policy changes. GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt told reporters that his majority caucus might yet agree to some new background check requirements, though he would not say what was coming or when.
For now, that shifts the gun issue to the state Senate. DFL Sen. Ron Latz of St. Louis Park said Wednesday that he and others will offer amendments Thursday for both a background check expansion and temporary gun-removal court orders, to be added to a major spending bill. The House’s vigil-keepers have provided a fitting prelude for what will be one of the most-watched floor debates of the year.