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House lawmakers ditch universal background checks

  • Article by: KYLE POTTER
  • Associated Press
  • March 19, 2013 - 9:46 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. - House lawmakers on Tuesday night stripped universal background checks for firearms sales from their push to revise the state's gun laws.

The Democrats leading that effort announced they are switching to a plan that would extend background checks to sales at gun shows but not to private sales. That issue has divided the Democrats on geographical lines, casting doubt on whether a bill with universal background checks could pass the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, called the new plan a compromise between his bill and the alternate package of less-restrictive gun measures backed by the National Rifle Association, which would improve — but not expand — the state's current background check system. Republicans and gun rights advocates said that expanding those checks just to gun show sales would have little impact in reducing gun violence.

First introduced earlier this month, the NRA-backed bill would require the state to send mental health commitment information to the national database of people who can't legally own a gun and to send all information to that database faster. It would also add to the parameters of what would disqualify someone from legally owning a gun and increase penalties for so-called straw purchases in which an eligible person buys a weapon for someone who legally cannot.

Paymar said he might use some of the provisions from that bill, authored by Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center. He said the deal came after hours of negotiating at the urging of House Speaker Paul Thissen.

Thissen told The Associated Press earlier Tuesday that House lawmakers were still working to build enough consensus on a bill to pass but said it wasn't clear if universal background checks would be part of the final product.

"This keeps the discussion going," Paymar said. "Like any compromise, I think people will be disappointed on both sides."

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