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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

ST. PAUL – If you support the Constitutional rights to bear arms and worship as you wish, State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said you should start paying close attention to the actions taking place by the Democrat majority at the State Capitol.


“The Democrats are simultaneously attacking your 1st and 2nd Amendment rights and hoping you won’t care enough to notice,” Torkelson said. “They’re paying little attention to our Constitution or our country’s history.”


Last year, Democrats – who control both bodies of the legislature and the governor’s office - enacted “universal” background checks and red flag confiscation orders. Now, Torkelson said they are looking to further compromise our 2nd Amendment rights with legislation that establishes an arbitrary deadline for reporting lost and stolen firearms; changes how firearms must be stored in the home; and bans binary triggers.


“Restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners is not the way to solve violent crimes,” Torkelson said. “Enforcing laws already on the books while holding criminals responsible for their actions would be much more effective than continuing to chip away at our 2nd Amendment rights.”


Torkelson also noted that no movement has been made on protecting religious organizations and faith-based schools against claims of gender identity discrimination, though Republicans have made several attempts to do so.


Before last year, when gender identity was included within the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) definition of sexual orientation, the still-existing religious exemption for sexual orientation covered gender identity claims as well. When a new, separate definition of gender identity was passed into law by the legislative majority last year, there was no corresponding religious exemption added. Torkelson said this potentially ties the hands of religious organizations who want to hire teachers and ministers consistent with their mission and values. 


On March 25, the House majority tabled a proposal that would have restored religious freedom in the MHRA, which Torkelson said essentially puts religious organizations and faith-based schools at risk of facing claims of gender identity discrimination. Previously, House and Senate Democrats both voted down similar actions in their respective committees.


Following the vote, House Democrat Judiciary Finance Chair Jamie-Becker Finn mocked the Republican attempt at re-establishing this religious freedom, telling the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “they're doing this because it gets them a lot of clicks and they get to give some fun speeches on the floor." 


Torkelson finds it troubling that some DFLers believe Constitutional rights can be played with like a political football. 


“There is no need to pass any bill that restricts your ability to speak freely, bear arms, or practice religion without fear of government retribution,” Torkelson concluded.