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Proposal restricting gun possession by accused abusers clears House panel

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: March 25, 2014 - 3:03 PM

Whether accused domestic abusers should have their guns taken away was at the heart of cautious debate before clearing the Minnesota House Public Safety committee Tuesday.

A bill authored by Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, would prevent anyone who subject to a restraining order to turn over any guns to law enforcement, a firearms dealer or someone who can legally hold them until the order is lifted or the case resolved. Schoen said the bill mirrors federal law, and does not allow the seizure of weapons until after a hearing regarding the protective order.

Schoen, a police officer, told the committee that of Minnesota’s 38 domestic violence-related deaths last year, 10 were caused by firearms.

 “We’re not going after law-abiding gun owners,” Schoen said. “If you beat women and children, you don’t deserve to have your gun.”

Schoen’s bill was backed by police and prosecutors, including St. Paul City Attorney Sarah Grewing, who called firearms “an instrument of torture,” in the domestic abuse cases her office handles.

“All too often, we see in orders for protection ‘He has a gun and I am scared.’” Grewing said.

But Andrew Rothman, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, called the bill well-intentioned but misapplied.

“I appreciate the work that is being done here, but many would agree that going after the root causes of abuse would be a better use of this committee’s time than this fixation on certain hardware.”

The bill heads next to the House Judiciary Committee. Its Senate counterpart cleared the Judiciary committee Monday.

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