The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 19, 2013

Gun vote looms in Minnesota and Biden's interested



Lawmakers in Colorado passed laws last week expanding background checks to private transfers and online gun sales and banning ammunition magazines with more than 15 rounds.

But the issue has divided the Democrats in control of Minnesota's government along geographical lines, with broader restrictions a tough sell for rural members. After Paymar and the Democrat leading the charge on gun laws in the Senate dropped assault weapons and high-capacity magazines from their bills, the issue has become a tug-of-war on background checks.

Testifiers made their case for and against background checks for the last time Tuesday ahead of the committee's vote.

"If we can keep as many guns off the streets that are illegally going to our young people as possible, it would save lives," said Gene Martin, a pastor at Joint Heirs with Christ Faith International in north Minneapolis.

Opponents like NRA lobbyist Chris Rager said that Paymar's bill would punish law-abiding gun owners rather than targeting criminals. He called on Paymar to focus on an alternate plan that supporters say would improve — but not expand — the state's current background check system.

That bill, backed by the NRA and Minnesota groups, would require the state to send mental health commitment information to the national database of people who can't legally own a gun and require the state to send all information to that database faster.

It would also add to the parameters of what would disqualify someone from legally owning a gun and increase penalties for straw purchases, in which an eligible person buys a weapon for someone who legally cannot.

Paymar said he will likely pull several measures from the alternate plan into his own bill in an effort to compromise.

But for the Republicans on the committee, universal background checks are a non-starter. Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, likened Paymar's proposal to "dressing up a pig."

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