In what should have been a breakthrough in the logjam surrounding Minnesota gun legislation instead seems to further entrench the positions of gun-control advocates.
A bipartisan group of more than 70 DFL and GOP legislators from the Minnesota House offered a bill last week 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.
However it did not contain a provision for universal background checks, which many gun control advocates insist upon. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Latz reportedly said any bill without universal background checks “is a major failing for all victims of gun violence.”
Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said the bill offered was an attempt to “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.”
However, Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, has indicated he has no desire to have the bill heard by the House public safety committee, which he chairs. And House Speaker Paul Thissen told Minnesota Public Radio News that while he personally would like to see something done around universal background checks, there is no unified caucus position on the issue.
The bipartisan bill would prohibit felons from possessing ammunition, create mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent felons convicted of possessing firearms on a second offense and make it a felony for individuals to file false reports of lost or stolen firearms.
It also streamlines the sharing of criminal data between the state and the federal government. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said the bill includes important “incremental change” in state gun laws.