SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Finance and Policy Division tonight is hearing two bills to address the epidemic of senseless gun violence. HF 8 and HF 9 will help ensure Minnesotans who may be dangerous or otherwise ineligible from owning or possessing a firearm aren’t able to do so.
HF 8 would require criminal background checks to be performed prior to all gun sales. HF 9 would provide for “Red Flag laws,” temporarily restricting an individual’s access to firearms if a court determines they may be a threat to themselves or others.
“In our committee, we’ve taken a community-centered approach to public safety that engages the full community to solve problems, including that of gun violence,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL – Saint Paul), committee chair. “Communities need tools they can use to intervene responsibly with those who have a history of criminal problems, or who are exhibiting worrisome behavior.”
Minnesota’s background check system currently has loopholes allowing dangerous individuals to obtain guns via online dealers or through private sales. Evidence shows expanded background checks will save lives, and states which have taken this approach have experienced lower homicide rates, lower firearm suicide rates, and less firearm trafficking.
“Minnesotans are demanding that we do more to keep guns out of the hands of people who have shown themselves to be dangerous,” said state Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL – Saint Paul), author of the background check legislation. “An overwhelming majority of Minnesotans, including most gun owners, want criminal background checks on gun purchases. This is a common-sense measure that has worked well in other states, has bipartisan support, and will help keep our communities safer. The time is now.”
A Red Flag law will allow “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” a court petition to temporarily remove guns from individuals showing signs of being dangerous. Evidence shows this tool can prevent suicides, homicides, and mass shooting events.
"Minnesotans have sent a clear message: they want their legislators to take action to stop preventable gun deaths now. We can't wait for the heartbreaking death of another child, teacher, police officer or neighbor," said state Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL – Mendota Heights), author of the Red Flag legislation. "One of the first steps we can take is to empower people to take action when they see signs of a threat to their safety or their community's safety. By allowing Minnesotans to petition a court to prohibit dangerous people from possessing a firearm, we can make our communities safer."
Both provisions carry tremendous public support. A 2018 poll showed 89 percent of Minnesotans support requiring background checks, including 94 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of Republicans, and even 89 percent of gun owners. The same poll showed 87 percent of Minnesotans support Red Flag laws.
HF 8 and HF 9 are part of the House DFL Caucus’s Minnesota Values Plan, an agenda to improve the lives of all Minnesotans, resulting from conversations legislators had with members of communities across the state.