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House passes firearm-removal request measure

House Photography file photo
House Photography file photo

Family members or law enforcement personnel could petition a court to have firearms removed from a person found to pose a significant danger to themselves or others, under a bill passed 68-62 by the House Thursday.

Sponsored by Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights), HF9, the so-called “red flag” bill, now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) is the sponsor.

Richardson said the extreme risk protection orders outlined in her bill “are a proven, evidence-based tool that can save lives.”

The 17 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted these laws have experienced a reduction in firearm suicides, homicides, and mass shootings, she said.

But opponents of the bill said it has serious due process problems.

The threshold for getting a court to issue a protection order is way too low, said Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake), and only needs a “preponderance of evidence” to remove a person’s firearms.

O’Neill said a better way to deal with someone who is truly a danger to themselves or others is for law-enforcement officers to obtain a 72-hour psychiatric mental health hold.

Richardson said her bill would give law enforcement additional tools to use alongside the 72-hour hold, and that the extra flexibility would increase public safety.

Other Republicans said the proposal would violate protections in the Bill of Rights.

“This bill tramples our Second Amendment right to bear arms, our Fourth Amendment right against undue search and seizure, and our Fifth Amendment right to due process,” said Rep. Matt Grossell (R-Clearbrook). “You are not secure in your home if this passes.”

Those due process concerns were echoed by Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe), who objected to the procedure that would allow a court to issue a protection order without allowing someone to be able to face their accuser.

“That’s a founding principle of our country,” he said. “You’re allowing mere allegations to start an investigation.”

Richardson argued concerns about the constitutionality of red flag laws are just not valid.

“Connecticut passed a red flag bill 20 years ago, and that bill has been upheld as constitutional,” she said, adding that Florida’s red flag law also passed a court challenge in 2019.

This was the second firearms-related bill passed by the House Thursday. HF8, which would require private transfers of pistols and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons be preceded by a firearms eligibility background check of the buyer, was passed 69-62.

“Minnesotans have been loud and clear that they want the legislature to take action to address senseless gun violence,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said in a statement. “The DFL-led House has responded to this call to action. Despite overwhelming public support for these proposals, Senate Republicans have blocked them at every opportunity. Senate Republicans should listen to Minnesotans and join us in supporting and passing these measures so we can enact them into law. These measures are making a difference where they've been enacted — including in Republican-led states.”

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