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House gun-control bill focuses on background checks

  • Article by: Jennifer Brooks
  • Star Tribune
  • February 28, 2013 - 10:59 PM

Everyone who buys a handgun or semi-automatic weapon in Minnesota should be subject to a background check, House Democrats say, whether they buy that firearm at a store, a gun show, a flea market or online.

The Gun Violence Prevention Act, unveiled Thursday by House Public Safety Committee Chairman Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, would close the loophole in the law that now waives background checks on private gun sales at gun shows, flea markets and online.

Paymar said he wrote the bill himself, deliberately leaving out such hot-button issues as bans on assault-style weapons or limits on ammunition magazine size, in order to create a package that could pass the Legislature this year.

“We’ve compiled what we think is a good bill that we think can pass out of committee and pass the Legislature and get the governor to sign it,” Paymar told reporters Thursday, flanked by uniformed police officers who support the bill.

But Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, an outspoken opponent of gun restrictions, doubts Paymar will be able to get enough votes from his own majority party.

“If he keeps universal background checks in there, I don’t see how it makes it out of the first committee,” Cornish said. “If it does, I don’t see how it makes it out of the next committee ... unless he picks the carcass of this bill very clean.”

Cornish said he liked a few provisions that would toughen penalties for criminals. But he called most of the bill a “non-starter,” including a new $25 purchase permit fee and provisions that would give law enforcement more flexibility to deny a gun permit to someone they believe might be a danger to themselves or others.

Paymar said he hopes to get a few Republicans to support his bill, and would fight any attempt to amend the proposal with more controversial provisions like an assault weapons ban.

The legislation follows days of emotional testimony at the Legislature by gun safety and gun rights advocates alike.

“We wish we could do everything at once,” said Heather Martens, of the pro-gun-control group Protect Minnesota. Limits on ammunition magazine sizes or military-style weapons, she said, would save lives, but she said her group supports Paymar’s legislation.

A number of law enforcement agencies support Paymar’s bill. Dennis Flaherty, executive director of Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, called the background checks “the centerpiece of all the firearm legislation”and said it would be a “huge disappointment” if that didn’t make it to the governor’s desk and into law.

“There’s just too many transactions that take place every day, on the Internet, over the back-yard fences, out of the trunks of cars ... that require no background investigation whatsoever. And this will put an end to that,” Flaherty said.

Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049

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