The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 16, 2013

In the gun debate, is there common ground?

(Continued)

In St. Paul two weeks ago, state legislators spent three days listening to testimony on proposed gun control legislation during what was dubbed “Gun Week.” The proposals include bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, giving law enforcement more access to mental health records, requiring more background checks and increasing penalties for gun crimes.

Norland admits she has an idealistic view about gun restrictions. If she had her way, no one except the military and law enforcement would have access to military-style rifles and any handguns. And she knows there are others on the opposite side of the spectrum, such as state Rep. Tony Cornish of Good Thunder, who don’t want any infringements on their right to bear arms.

Those people also have been moved to action as the gun debate has heated up. At Vantage Point Shooting Range in Kasota, classes required for obtaining a permit to carry a handgun have been filling up a month before they happen. In the past, the classes would reach a limit of about 25 people a few days before the class started, said instructor Rick Bruels.

“Now they’re full weeks in advance,” he said. “Maybe people are waking up. It has nothing to do with guns. It has to do with taking away personal rights.”

But there are some signs that legislators will at least find some middle ground this time around, bringing changes that didn’t come after other recent gun tragedies that caught national attention. Many gun advocates who are usually against firearm restrictions say they are open to more background checks and finding ways to keep guns away from people who are potential danger to themselves or others.

Guys with guns

It’s noon on Thursday and the usual group of guys has gathered at Vantage Point with a diverse collection of handguns and rifles.

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