Gov. Mark Dayton gave a vote of confidence to a universal background checks bill that faces a showdown vote this week.
"I support universal background checks -- I have since I was in the U.S. Senate," said Dayton Monday morning. He spoke at an impromptu media gathering after he addressed a Capitol gathering on drug courts.
Dayton said he believes the specifics of the bill -- requiring private parties to have their sale conducted through a licensed dealer -- "seems a bit cumbersome to me."
"But, frankly, it's not enough to overcome the real advantages of that legislation, which is that everyone has to be subject to a background check before they can purchase a firearm," the DFL governor said.
"If you're a criminal and know you can't get a gun through a licensed dealer, where are you going to go? You're going somewhere where you're not going to have a background check."
He said the idea of extending checks to private sales is "common sense... The polls show the public overwhelmingly supports it, because they know it's common sense."
"It's meant to protect lives, and we should be doing everything we possibly can to protect lives in Minnesota," Dayton said.
The universal background checks bill was approved in a Senate committee last week.
It is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday in the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, where the outcome is uncertain.
It is opposed by the National Rifle Association, whose supporters back a rival bill that would focus on improving current background checks and increasing penalties for felons who illegally possess weapons.
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, committee chairman and sponsor of the universal background checks bill, said Monday he would prefer to see a compromise between the two sides. He has notified committee members that late amendments will be accepted, waiving the usual 24-hour deadline and making it possible for a last-minute agreement to be taken up by the committee.