Measure to stop abusers from having guns advances

  • Updated: March 25, 2014 - 11:35 PM

Domestic abuse victim Julie Zappa showed the committee how her former abuser would clench his fist before striking her as she testified Tuesday at the State Office Building in St. Paul. Seated to her right is Rep. Dan Schoen, author of the bill.

Photo: DAVID JOLES, Star Tribune

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A plan to separate accused domestic abusers from their firearms cleared the Minnesota House of Representatives’ Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

The bill authored by Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, would require anyone who is subject to a restraining order to turn over his or her guns to law enforcement officials, 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.

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.

Abby Simons

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