By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — DFL lawmakers introduced several bills to tighten gun regulations, including requiring universal background checks for all purchases of pistols and assault weapons, to ban the sale of certain assault weapons, and to outlaw large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Rep. Tony Cornish, the Good Thunder Republican who is the Legislature’s leading opponent of gun restrictions, vowed to fight all of the bills.
Cornish had introduced a bill that would have allowed teachers with permits to carry guns in school, a bill that had no chance of passing the DFL-controlled Legislature. He said he is withdrawing that bill to prevent it from detracting from debate on the other bills.
“I made a decision to pull my bills and concentrate my energies into defeating all of these proposals,” Cornish said Friday.
He is on the House Public Safety Committee, which is to discuss the bills Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He said he expects the DFL chair “will allow all the testimony we want to give” and said he expects the hearings will be boisterous. “I don’t think it’ll get out of order, but there’ll be a lot of gaveling.”
Cornish said he and NRA lobbyists believe all of the bills introduced are flawed:
* He said one bill would make it a felony if a parent with a carry permit forgot and accidentally went onto school grounds with a gun, something that is now a misdemeanor.
* Cornish said the description of assault weapons “is so vague it will include target rifles and hunting rifles,” by banning guns with a pistol grip or a thumb hole in the stock. He said such thumb grips are common on even .22-caliber target and hunting rifles.
* Another bill would extend rules on who has to get a background check before buying a gun. Currently sales between a private buyer and seller don’t require the checks. Gun transfers between blood relatives would still be allowed without the background check, but it would be required on all others sales.
Cornish said that will require a state or federal gun registration system that he opposes.
Cornish said he will push for the few things where the NRA and gun restriction proponents can agree, such as expanding the categories of people convicted of violent crimes who can’t own guns.
Mankato Rep. Kathy Brynaert, part of the DFL majority, isn’t on the committee and hasn’t co-authored any gun related legislation, but said she hopes there can be a serious debate.
“I hope that we can all stay in a reasoned, open, listening conversation. Evidence (of that) is to the contrary right now. It worries me when high levels of hysteria arise around an issue.”
She said she believes most Minnesotans aren’t locked into a “one side or the other side” mentality when it comes to gun laws.
“I’ll listen and I’ll read and I’ll be careful in my thinking before I decide what to do. The real conversation is in the middle. If you’re certain you’re right you’re not going to listen to any conversation.”
President Barack Obama is to visit Minneapolis on Monday to pitch his proposals for reducing gun violence.