Two bills that drew the strongest opposition during this week's gun hearings at the Legislature would ban assault-style weapons and the higher-capacity ammunition magazines.
Both were sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul, and both drew lengthy and emotional responses from activists and professionals on both sides. Supporters of gun-owners-rights were far more numerous and lined up to speak for hours until the meeting wound up at 10 p.m. Thursday.
But Hausman was mostly absent during the hearings, leaving the job of defending the bill to gun-control lobbyist Heather Martens of Protect Minnesota. That is an extremely unusual practice for a legislator seeking to get bills passed in the Legislature.
Hausman excused herself Wednesday morning after introducing the assault weapons bill, saying she had another appointment, and did not attend Thursday's session focusing on her bill to ban larger ammunition magazines.
Hausman said she had other commitments as a committee chair and was told her bills would not be voted on. Rather, Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, chairman of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, said ideas contained in many of the bills would be included in a larger, gun-violence measure that will be assembled and voted on later this month.
That meant that Hausman, who is not on the public safety committee, was "not a decision-maker," she said, and was presenting bills that were put together by Protect Minnesota. She said she meant no disrespect to the testifiers.
"The testimony was meant for committee members," she said, to "help them make their decision."
As the meeting wound up on Thursday, Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, praised those who testified but criticized Hausman for her absence.
"I just feel that's really a large concern," she said. "These people were here to address the concerns in her bill."