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Advocates blast House over abandoned gun bill

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks under Minnesota legislature, Democrats Updated: May 3, 2013 - 12:14 PM

Protesters gathered outside the Minnesota House chambers Friday to blast Democrats for abandoning their own gun control bill.

"It seems to me that Speaker [Paul] Thissen is trying to protect the caucus," said Sami Rahamim, who lost his father in last year's mass shooting at Accent Signage, the deadliest workplace shooting in state history. "I think it's fair for me to look them in the eye and ask if it's the caucus that really needs protecting, and not hardworking people like my father."

Rahamim was one of dozens of people, from both sides of the gun debate, who testified during the days and weeks of hearings the House and Senate held on gun legislation this session. The issue deeply divided the Democratic caucus and earlier this week, Thissen announced that he would not bring the bill to the floor for a vote this year.

“Neither side has been willing to come to an agreement,” Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said at the time. “Because of the intensity on both sides of the issue, even some common-sense solutions can’t be agreed upon right now."

The move stunned the advocates who had been working all year to push for universal background checks and other gun control measures.

"We'd been told that we'd have to compromise, so we compromised," said Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota. "We gave up the assault weapons ban, which could have prevented Sandy Hook. We gave up the high-capacity magazines ban that could have prevented Aurora. But we stuck with universal background checks, because they are the cornerstone of making our communities safe. And now we are hearing from people like Rep. David Dill that even the gun show loophole won't do."

Dill, a Democrat from Crane Lake, was a vocal opponent of expanded background checks.

"David Dill, whose side are you on?" Martens said. "Are you on the side of the community that deserves safety? Or are you on the side of gun traffickers and the criminals who right now have easy access to dangerous weapons. I ask David Dill to justify his actions against background checks that are supported by 90 percent of Americans."

Dill, like the rest of the House Democrats, was in a party caucus meeting at the time of the protest.

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