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“The gun culture of this country is so disturbing,” said Marree Seitz, whose daughter Carolyn was shot and killed by her husband several days after filing for divorce in 1996. “So much of the domestic abuse is so flammable, where the littlest thing can set the person off,” she said. “The accessibility of the weapons makes it such a natural thing.”
Legislators were still working on the proposal late in the week, ensuring that gun advocates could approve the changes.
The measure puts opponents in the difficult and politically dicey position of defending gun ownership rights for domestic abusers and stalkers.
State Rep. David Dill, who opposed last year’s measure on background checks, said he is not quite ready to commit to supporting the new measure. He wants to make sure there is ample due process for people subject to restraining orders.
“Domestic abuse is a horrible thing, an awful thing,” said Dill, DFL-Crane Lake. “But I want to make sure there is as much due process and protection in it possible for legal, law-abiding gun owners.”
The measure has strong support from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the country’s largest gun violence prevention advocacy organization. The group was founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has poured millions of dollars of his personal fortune into the cause. Just this month, Bloomberg pledged an additional $50 million to try to match the NRA’s formidable membership base, lobbying force and campaign organization.
“You’ve got to work at it piece by piece,” Bloomberg told the New York Times.
State Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said the gun issue has a different feel inside the Capitol this year. He led last year’s unsuccessful effort on background checks and harshly criticized leaders in his own party for letting it die.
“Clearly, we ran into a buzz saw last year,” said Paymar, who runs a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing domestic abuse. “The environment was toxic at the time.”
Schoen said he is taking nothing for granted. He knows that gun owner groups can quickly and easily turn up the heat on members and defeat the bill.
“It’s maybe a signal of the temperature of the room, how far can you go at once,” Schoen said. “I am just trying to read the tea leaves.”
Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044