ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two Republican lawmakers from Minneapolis suburbs proposed bills Wednesday that encourage private gun sales to go through background checks and would tighten gun access for people convicted of domestic assault.
Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth and Rep. Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie are co-sponsoring the bills, which they say are an effort to keep guns out of the hands of ineligible and potentially dangerous people. One bill would shield private sellers from criminal liabilities if they sell a gun later used in a crime.
The other involves several small tweaks to how guns can be taken from people after a court order, including requirements for sheriff's offices to follow up with the court. Courts would also be required to hold hearings for people who have their guns taken and also are guaranteed a hearing within three days under the proposal.
"When you get into domestic abuse and domestic violence, that is clearly an area where we could be doing more," Loon said. "I think it's really an honest attempt to try to do something and move the issue forward."
Gun laws are under scrutiny in Minnesota and nationwide after the deadly shooting in a Florida high school that killed 17 students and staff earlier this year. And some lawmakers — from both parties — are under pressure from voters to show that they've tightened up gun laws to prevent another tragedy.
The 2014 Domestic Violence Firearm Act allows Minnesota judges to issue protection orders in domestic abuse cases. The order requires alleged abusers transfer or surrender weapons within three days and file paperwork detailing where the guns went.
"What we're seeing though is that is not happening," Anderson said, pointing to a KARE-TV report that found the mandates were lightly enforced. "Law enforcement isn't going to get the gun, and so you have a very low compliance rate with it."
The measure would require sheriff's offices to file an update after taking someone's guns.
Supporters of stronger gun laws have converged on the Minnesota Capitol several times this session, threatening to take their protests to the voting booths in November if lawmakers don't respond. But any changes have so far failed to get support in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Rep. Dave Pinto, a Democrat from St. Paul, said the recent proposals were "mildly encouraging." But he said they fall short in addressing gun violence compared to requiring background checks and creating legal paths to temporarily remove guns from dangerous or mentally unstable people that he and other lawmakers have pushed for.
"Clearly, the voices of Minnesotans are beginning to shake things up," Pinto said. "We need to help the majority to really listen to what they're being told."
House Speaker Kurt Daudt said last week that gun control legislation doesn't have support in the House among Republican majorities and rural Democrats.
Anderson acknowledges the proposals may be too late for action in the waning weeks of the legislative session. With less than three weeks before the Legislature's mandatory adjournment, she said they may be shelved and considered next year.