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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Howard (DFL)

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Legislative Update - March 1, 2019

Friday, March 1, 2019

It’s time.
Minnesotans spoke loud and clear in the last election about their desire to do something about our nation’s epidemic of senseless gun violence. Community leaders, neighbors, parents, survivors, and especially students, are raising their voices and demanding that we take action. This week, we took our first major step in the right direction. The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform committee voted in favor of HF 8 to require criminal background checks on gun sales and HF 9 to establish extreme risk protection orders. I was proud to vote yes for both bills.
HF 8 - Criminal background checks on all gun sales
Federal law only requires background checks on gun sales made by licensed firearm dealers. These laws prevent certain people with dangerous histories from buying guns, such as convicted felons, domestic abusers, and people with severe mental illnesses. However, current law does not require that unlicensed sellers run these checks – a loophole that allows millions of guns to change hands each year in the United States without background checks. HF 8 will close this loophole.
Criminal background checks are effective. Since the background check system was put in place in 1998, it has blocked more than 35,000 gun sales at licensed firearm dealers in Minnesota, including over 20,000 to felons and nearly 5,000 to domestic abusers. Studies from other states have shown background checks to reduce gun homicides and suicides. This common sense measure will save lives and do so without undo burden on lawful gun owners. Perhaps that is why 90% of Minnesotans support it.
HF 9 - Extreme Risk Orders Protection
 Acts of gun violence, including mass shootings and gun suicides, are often preceded by serious red flags -  threats of violence, dangerous behavior, and other indications that a person is a danger to themselves and others. Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) legislation enables law enforcement officers to seek a court order to temporarily remove guns from a person in crisis. This legislation is an important way to address our epidemic of suicides. On average, one person per day commits suicide by gun in Minnesota. ERPO legislation is an effective tool that has been proven in other states to reduce suicide by gun. And like criminal background checks on all gun sales, Minnesotans broadly support this legislation.
We are moving forward on these important bills because of the powerful voices of young leaders, families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, and a broad coalition of Minnesotans who are ready for action. My colleagues and I are committed to addressing these issues, and will bring them to a vote on the House floor soon. Looking ahead, the Republican-controlled Senate has been less willing to consider these bills. That is why it is so important that Minnesotans continue to raise their voice and push for action. I will keep working in partnership with Minnesotans and with our counterparts in the Senate to move forward this legislative session with gun violence prevention legislation that makes Minnesota a safer place.

Michael Howard