The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 19, 2013

Gun vote looms in Minnesota and Biden's interested

ST. PAUL — The White House has its eye on gun control measures at the Minnesota Capitol, where House lawmakers neared a critical vote Tuesday night on whether to require background checks for nearly all firearm sales.

Vice President Joe Biden has placed calls to elected officials in Minnesota, New Mexico and Colorado to discuss legislative efforts to reduce gun violence, according to an aide, who would not disclose which officials he had called. The aide was not authorized to discuss the calls publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk told The Associated Press that he got a call Friday from Biden, who asked about the move to expand background checks in Minnesota and how opponents measure were fighting it. Bakk said Biden didn't ask him to push lawmakers to support universal background checks.

"He specifically started the conversation by saying 'I don't want to get into anybody's politics," Bakk said. "I think he was just honestly trying to make an assessment about how this issue is being talked about, and does the conversation accurately reflect what that legislation would do?"

Bakk said he told the vice president that many Minnesota gun owners fear background checks will be used to build a gun registry. The National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates have made that argument many times in hearings at the Legislature.

After days of emotional testimony last month and weeks of wrestling for lawmakers' support, the House Public Safety and Finance Committee was prepared Tuesday evening to vote on that measure as part of a broader package of changes to Minnesota's gun laws.

Rep. Michael Paymar, a St. Paul Democrat and the committee's chairman, called universal background checks "a minor inconvenience for a civilized society."

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