A bipartisan group of legislators in the Minnesota House have introduced an 11th-hour gun proposal backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that supporters say could pass this session.
With less than two weeks to go before legislators hit a deadline to pass policy proposals, DFL Rep. Deb Hilstrom and more than 70 DFL and GOP co-sponsors introduced a bill on Wednesday that would increase penalties for felons convicted of possessing firearms and make it a felony for individuals who knowingly purchase a gun for an ineligible person. The bill would also step up law enforcement collection and sharing of background check data.
Notably absent from the bill is a provision for universal background checks, which was the cornerstone of a gun violence prevention bill crafted and introduced by DFL House Public Safety Committee Chair Michael Paymar.
“We attempted to put together a proposal that has bipartisan support as well as geographic balance,” Hilstrom, a prosecutor from Brooklyn Park, said. “We believe that this is a proposal that can bring people together in Minnesota to do what we can to improve the background system that we currently have but also hold felons responsible for crimes they commit.”
Paymar and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Latz held hours of hearings on gun violence prevention bills last month in the wake of a school shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left more than two dozen dead and a workplace shooting in Minneapolis that left six dead, including the gunman. Paymar told MPR that he does not support the move and will not hold a hearing on the bill in his committee.
In an interview with Politics in Minnesota, Latz said a bill without universal background checks is a “major failing for all victims of gun violence.” Latz has yet to introduce his gun violence prevention package, but says it’s in the works right now. “This is a firearm,” Latz said. “We are not talking about teddy bears here.”
Hilstrom said she plans to push for a hearing on the bill despite Paymar’s objections, and is currently working on getting a co-sponsor for the bill in the Senate. Several Senate Republicans were at the press conference, including Warren Limmer and Julianne Ortman, but no Democrats from the upper chamber were present.
Appearing on MPR earlier on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Thissen said while he personally would like to see something done around universal background checks, there is no unified caucus position on the issue.