Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords joined with Minnesota legislators and members of the Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense on Tuesday to urge state officials to strengthen the state’s gun laws.
Giffords, co-founder of the national gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, called on the Legislature to close loopholes in Minnesota law that allow felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill to buy a gun without a criminal-background check.
“Stopping gun violence takes courage — the courage to do what’s right and the courage of new ideas. I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line,” Giffords said at a Minnesota Capitol news conference. “Now is the time to come together — to be responsible! Democrats, Republicans — everyone.”
Proposals at the state Legislature this year would tighten Minnesota’s gun laws by requiring wider background checks.
But those measures have little chance of passing this year. Opponents of the proposals say expanded background checks would be burdensome to law-abiding owners and amount to a firearm registry.
“In addition to piling on more fees and government mandates, this amendment would criminalize commonplace practices of Minnesota’s law-abiding gun owners,” said Catherine Mortensen, a National Rifle Association spokeswoman. “It will do nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms and will only put an unnecessary burden upon law-abiding citizens.”
The NRA, which has strongly opposed the changes, along with NRA Minnesota members and supporters sent more than 3,700 e-mail letters to state senators recently urging them to reject the measures.
Retired St. Paul Police Cmdr. Dave Korus said measures like the ones proposed in Minnesota wouldn’t impact the rights of lawful gun owners.
“I know we don’t have to choose between making our communities safer places to live and protecting the rights of responsible, law-abiding people,” said Korus, an advisory committee member of the Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense. “None of these common sense changes will impact the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
New research released last week by Americans for Responsible Solutions found that 86 percent of Minnesota voters, including 77 percent of Republicans, support closing loopholes in the state’s criminal background check laws and requiring background checks for all gun sales.
At Tuesday’s news conference, supporters pointed to public opinion polls that had similar findings and said states that have closed background check loopholes have seen decreased rates of gun violence.
“We know that these kinds of changes to our laws work,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. “We know that even the most common sense laws like this one won’t stop every criminal from getting a gun or prevent every tragedy. But does that mean that we can’t make some common sense steps?”
Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, a staunch gun rights advocate, said that the statistics and studies gun control supporters trumpet are misleading.
“Without evidence that it does any good and cherry-picking statistics that make your cause look better and then not believing ours, we don’t feel like there’s room to give,” he said. “Having defeated 16 gun laws in years past and then last year passing four pro-gun bills, it makes me think this is … political.”
Christopher Aadland is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.