The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editor's blog

March 12, 2013

News and comment: gun seizures, Obama's reach, Dayton's backtrack

Recent headlines surprised me more than a little this week from aggressive gun laws in California to Gov. Mark Dayton's pullback from sales tax expansion after a year's worth of stakeholder meetings.

News: In California, the Justice Department officers put on their bullet-proof vests to call on a man recently committed to a mental hospital for two days. They knock on his door and take his guns since he is no longer eligible to have them under California law. Read the surprising story here.

Here's an excerpt:

California is the only state that tracks and disarms people with legally registered guns who have lost the right to own them, according to Attorney General Kamala Harris. Almost 20,000 gun owners in the state are prohibited from possessing firearms, including convicted felons, those under a domestic violence restraining order or deemed mentally unstable.

"What do we do about the guns that are already in the hands of persons who, by law, are considered too dangerous to possess them?" Harris said in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden after a Connecticut school shooting in December left 26 dead. She recommended that Biden, heading a White House review of gun policy, consider California as a national model.

As many as 200,000 people nationwide may no longer be qualified to own firearms, according to Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. Other states may lack confiscation programs because they don't track purchases as closely as California, which requires most weapons sales go through a licensed dealer and be reported.

"Very, very few states have an archive of firearm owners like we have," said Wintemute, who helped set up the program.

Comment: Given all the discussion at the federal level about not even thinking about programs like this, it's interesting California is already doing it.States rights, I guess. Minnesota legislators of both parties introduced a gun background check bill that would pale in comparison to California's law.

News: Gov. Mark Dayton announced at a Twin West Chamber meeting in the cities last week that he was withdrawing his proposal for business to business taxes, and apparently, also was dumping the plan to lower the sales tax rate but extend it to more goods.

Comment: It surprised me he pulled the plug on this so fast, without even going around the state to drum up support. He invested a year of his revenue commissioner's time gathering data for tax reform and then to all of sudden say never mind doesn't strike me as a true Dayton play here.

As of this writing, the main emphasis for revenue seemed to be increasing income tax on the wealthy, which the Minnesota Chamber immediately said it would fight. I think Dayton still has some strategy on this, maybe setting up the proverbial checkmate with his own party and legislators. They can't have it both ways, yet Democrats want more spending for schools, though I think he might look at cigarettes tax for not a $1 per pack jump but maybe a $2 per pack.

Maybe he'll come back to the business tax at the end of the session when lobbying will be much tougher to do.

News: President Obama of late has not only reached out and "touched" Republicans with a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant (were there beers involved?). He likewise reached out to Senate Democrats in personal visits.

Comment: The Washington pundits are playing this both ways depending on their political stripe. To the left pundits, it's an unusual and worthwhile gesture designed to thaw some partisan lines. To conservatives, it's window dressing, nothing more than a "charm" offensive, and Obama is not interested in moving his policy positions.

The most surprising comment came in a Washington Post story of Tuesday afternoon where the headline read "Obama tells Democrats they "must be open to entitlement changes." That's pretty straight forward in my mind. He can't really back off that one too much.

Senate Democrats seemed put off. The story used the word "rebuffed." Is this another hint at Obama the Clinton-like "centrist." Here's the story.


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