Today, along with Sen. Ron Latz, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee from St. Louis Park, I introduced a bill, HF 2897, aimed at keeping Minnesotans safer by expanding the requirements for criminal background checks for firearm purchases. We were joined by a broad coalition of law enforcement, faith leaders, county attorneys, community leaders and families of gun violence victims.
The bill would require background checks on all gun sales – including online sales and those at gun shows – by closing existing loopholes in Minnesota law that make it easy for felons, domestic abusers and people suffering from dangerous mental illnesses to get guns. Also required are background checks for private sales, with the exception of sales between family members.
Speaking for myself, I’m a supporter of the second amendment, but I also believe it goes hand-in-hand with responsible gun ownership. Too many Minnesotans have experienced the trauma of a loved one killed by gun violence – particularly gun suicides. Regardless, whenever legislators attempt to tackle this harmful, deadly problem in our communities, certain folks turn up the rhetoric in an attempt to scare people that their rights will be eroded. I’d like to take some time to talk about what the bill specifically does not do.
First, the bill doesn’t create a registry of guns, either at a state or federal level. Period. Whether or not you agree with our approach, it’s amazing how certain individuals can jump to this conclusion, or a conclusion that this bill will lead to confiscation of guns. Simply, it does not. Also, it does not restrict the types of guns Minnesotans can buy or own, and doesn’t change the classification of who can or cannot purchase a gun. Lastly, it doesn’t add any onerous or expensive oversight to the purchase of a gun in Minnesota. Many background checks take just about 90 seconds, and with the millions of felons and other dangerous individuals blocked from buying guns since the system began in 1998, the evidence shows that this works.
In 2014, I worked with Sen. Latz to pass a bill in an overwhelming, bi-partisan fashion restricting individuals with domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms, and this is now keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers here in the state of Minnesota. I believe passing that bill turned the corner for Minnesotans to begin a common sense and moderate discussion about gun violence prevention.
There isn’t a single solution that would prevent every incident of gun violence, but there are reasonable steps we can take, like background checks, which we know can save lives. Clearly, there will be skeptics, but you can't give up hope that people will see the wisdom of doing the right thing. I look forward to working with my colleagues here in St. Paul on this bill that respects the rights of law abiding gun owners, while also working to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and save lives.