The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 18, 2012

NRA-endorsed Walz willing to talk about gun control

By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Congressman Tim Walz has opposed a ban on high-capacity, military-style rifles — sometimes called “assault” weapons — in the past.

And while he hasn’t reversed his position on the federal ban, which expired in 2004, he said Tuesday he’s willing to talk about more restrictions on guns.

“What people are putting forward, looking at assault magazines, assault weapons, that should be in the discussion,” he said.

But he also said he doesn’t want a feel-good legislative fix that doesn’t solve anything.

“It has to strike the proper balance between the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens versus the safety of all Americans,” he said.

It was clear Walz was striking a balance himself. He was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in his contest this year against Allen Quist.

One of the guns used in last week’s school shooting in Connecticut, a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, used 30-round magazines. The expired federal ban used a 10-round limit.

When asked specifically about whether he would support a ban on high-capacity guns, Walz said he would be “willing to entertain, if it’s crafted correctly” reductions to magazine size. He declined to get specific, saying the “devil is in the details” in this case.

But Walz said he isn’t willing to do nothing.

“My take on this is we have a responsibility to get it right. That argument that you can never prevent all of these, it doesn’t remove us from responsibility.”

He said providing access to mental health care for people who need it should also be discussed, as should fully funding the National Instant Background Check System.

In March, he was one of 33 members of Congress to call on his colleagues to fund the system, which helps prevent felons, mentally ill, drug abusers and illegal immigrants from obtaining guns.

Minnesota legislators are also reacting to the Connecticut shooting.

State Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, was busy hunting coyote Tuesday afternoon, but had previously told Minnesota Public Radio that he plans to introduce legislation to allow teachers to carry guns in schools.

“If we had teachers with firearms, as scary as it may sound to some, even if somebody got injured in the crossfire, balance that against 20-some kids getting killed,” he told Minnesota Public Radio. “I don’t think it’s a close balance. I think we need to err on the side of the teachers and let them defend the students.”

State Sen. Kathy Sheran, D-Mankato, suggested changes to the civil commitment process.

“I do think we need to strengthen the family’s ability to intervene when there’s a potential for violence,” she said.

Like Walz, she also spoke of a balance between public safety and civil liberties, in this case the right not to be committed against your will.

But she said the current standard, which requires the person to be a danger to themselves or others, is “a very high standard.”