The fight over gun violence, currently stalled in the Legislature, will reappear this week in a radio ad.
Protect Minnesota, a gun-control organization supporting bills that would extending background checks to some or all private sales, will begin running the ad on Wednesday, said Heather Martens, executive director of the group.
The issue is whether background checks, which now are conducted for sales by licensed firearms dealers, should be required also for private, person-to-person sales of handguns and semiautomatic, military-style assault weapons. A Senate committee has passed such a bill, with exceptions for hunting rifles and sales of any weapons among relatives.
The National Rifle Association has thrown its weight against the bill, and it has faced stiff opposition in the House. A weaker bill, applying only to private sales at gun shows, cleared a House committee.
Neither House has brought the issue to the floor for a debate, with the session due to end in three weeks. GOP members have been joined by some rural DFLers in opposing the background checks bill.
The radio ad refers to the case of Rochelle Inselman, who was denied a permit to legally purchase weapon due to a history of violating restraining orders. Inselman arranged over the internet for a private purchase of a 9 millimeter handgun and shot and killed her ex-boyfriend, Bret Struck of Brooklyn Center.
"But because it's legal to avoid background checks at gun shows and on line, Inselman easily bought a gun and murdered the man she was stalking," the ad states.
"The Minnesota Legislature could pass a bill to strengthen background checks, but is doing nothing," the ad continues, urging background checks supporters to call the Legislature.
Martens said strong public support for universal background checks, showing up in recent Minnesota polls, is being ignored by the Legislature. "We need to shine a light on this," she said. "If something's going to happen this year, it's going to happen soon."
At the same time, the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action is asking members and supporters to call legislators to oppose the weaker House version. "This type of legislation is dangerous and must be stopped, as this scheme is the first step towards criminalizing ALL private transfers and can only be enforced with gun registration," the group's message to members reads.
The NRA is urging supporters to contact members of the House Rules Committee, which would have to take up the background checks bill before it goes to the House floor.
Opponents of universal background checks, including the NRA and the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, argue that such a law will be ignored by those, like Inselman, who are intent on committing violent crimes. They say the burden will fall on law-abiding gun owners, and they fear that such a law could eventually lead to a statewide registry of gun owners.
Supporters say private sales are a series of loopholes that allow people to avoid licensed dealers when they know they are barred by law from purchasing or possessing a firearm. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and the Minnesota County Attorneys Association have supported expanded background checks.