But the touchstone for both sides is the definition of universal background checks that some proponents believe should be required for all gun purchases and tracked accordingly. The fear of some gun owners is this would create a federal gun registry which, in fact, Vice President Joe Biden favors.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a key negotiator on federal gun legislation, was offering a compromise, too. He said any provision that required gun owners to keep records was unworkable. Instead, he wanted legislation that would give sellers “the right and the responsibility to do the right thing” and run a background check.
Without question, there are flaws in Minnesota’s background checks. It’s still difficult to access criminal records of people who are not permitted to own a weapon or who lie on their applications. And while the state already restricts gun ownership for drug offenders, fugitives, domestic abusers, felons, illegal immigrants, dishonorable discharges, stalkers and several categories of mentally ill, it’s hard for gun dealers to always get accurate information.
The compromise bill addresses improvements in the state’s background checks and, with discussion, it may even be improved upon. And Coburn’s offering is worth putting on the table here in Minnesota.
But any take-it-or-leave-it stand on Minnesota’s gun legislation is not beneficial. The opening provided by gun owner groups to compromise should be embraced and work should begin on clarifying the language acceptable for exemptions and correcting flaws on existing legislation.