The gun bills are coming.
Bills to require universal background checks for all purchases of pistols and assault weapons, to ban the manufacture or sale of certain assault weapons, and to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines were introduced this week in the Minnesota Legislature.
The background check bill is sponsored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis , and Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. Paymar’s committee will begin hearing all the bills next week.
“I want to make sure that people who want to have guns, law-abiding folks, they’are able to do it… and that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands,” Champion said.
“Coming from a district where there’s a lot of gun violence, but also coming from a district where people are wonderful gun owners…. I want to make sure this is the appropriate balance between the two,” Champion said.
Paymar said the bill would require background checks for all sales of pistols and assault weapons, but not hunting rifles, and not pistols and assault weapons that are transferred to relatives.
He said current estimates are that a 30-40 percent of sales of pistols and semiautomatic weapons are outside the background check system – either through gun shows or private sales.
Also Thursday,The Hennepin County prosecutor joined DFL legislators Thursday in proposing changes to keep guns away from felons and juveniles.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, joined by Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Division, and Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, chairman of the House Civil Law Committee, presented the package as part of the gun-law discussion taking place at the Capitol.
Latz said his committee will hear all gun-related bills Feb. 21-22. The House is to hear gun bills next week.
The package, supported by the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, includes:
-- Adding certain felony domestic assaults to the list of "crimes of violence," creating a felony penalty for those who are convicted of these crimes and later possess a firearm.
-- Raising the penalty for juveniles who possess pistols and assault weapons, which is illegal, but currently prosecuted in juvenile court.
-- Making it a crime to help someone get a gun who is disqualified from gun ownership.
-- Making possession of ammunition a crime for felons who are already barred from possessing weapons.
-- Clarifying that people who have been committed by a court as mentally ill and dangerous may not possess a weapon even if the court has stayed its order.