Count sensible gun reform as one more victim of a chaotic 2019 Minnesota legislative session that is still unfinished. One more chance to take some modest steps, widely supported by the public, to stem the tide of gun violence — gone.
Minnesota came closer this time to implementing universal background checks for gun purchases and to restricting weapons for those found to be a danger to themselves or others. But in the end, not even the combined efforts of a supportive DFL House majority, a new DFL governor and the outspoken advocacy of the first lady and the countless orange-shirted Minnesotans who showed up at rallies could overcome the resistance of those who consider even the mildest restriction a constitutional violation of their gun rights.
The public’s tolerance for such obstinance is being tested with every mass shooting, every gun-suicide that might have been prevented, every life cut down by intentional or unintentional gunfire.
The two proposals under consideration this year were hardly revolutionary. Closing the loophole that allows private buyers to avoid background checks is a common-sense measure that would represent only a minor inconvenience for purchasers, and poll after poll has shown it is one with broad public support — including among gun owners.
The second, badly needed, is often referred to as a “red flag” or “extreme protection” law. It would allow authorities to temporarily remove guns from someone considered to be a danger to himself or others. According to state statistics, 78% of all suicide deaths in 2017 were through firearms.
According to a recent story in USA Today, 15 states now have red-flag laws: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. They include coastal states and inland states; hunting states and farm states; states with Republican legislatures and Democratic legislatures. All confronted the same powerful opposition of interest groups driving an increasingly toxic gun culture. All found their way to consensus, at least on red-flag laws.
Minnesota won’t even have the discussion. Sen. Warren Limmer, who as head of the Judiciary and Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee leads on both policy and spending decisions, would not hold a hearing during the entire 2019 session. On a topic of overriding public interest, that’s not a reasonable position.
If citizens cannot hear such issues debated, evaluated and negotiated in their state Legislature, where then are such discussions supposed to occur? Why would legislators deliberately wall themselves off from presentations of expert testimony, data, victims? Shutting the other side down simply because you can is wrong and only deepens polarization.
Minnesotans deserve to have full hearings on issues related to gun safety. Whether those issues pass or not should be determined by 201 legislators who should hear the facts, cast their votes and stand accountable. End the hiding.