The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 22, 2013

Minn. Senate panel passes background checks at gun shows

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota House panel on Thursday approved background checks for firearm sales at gun shows, but the measure may not have enough to support at the Capitol to become law.

One rural Democrat joined every Republican on the House Public Safety Committee in voting against a watered-down bill that would close the so-called "gun show loophole" but not require background checks in other private gun sales. The House Democrat leading the push to tighten Minnesota's gun laws ditched his effort to impose universal background checks earlier this week.

The bill passed on a 10-8 vote and now heads to the House floor, where it will sit for weeks as lawmakers wrangle support and shift their focus to the state's budget.

Rep. John Ward's "no" vote illustrates the political difficulty of adding broader restrictions to Minnesota's gun laws. Ward, DFL-Baxter, and several other rural Democrats — a crucial bloc for making any changes — told The Associated Press they won't support even the watered-down measure. That makes it likely that any bill will be trimmed further before becoming Minnesota law, perhaps pulling out any background check expansion altogether.

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said he's confident that opponents have more than enough votes on the House floor to stop the bill passed Thursday night. House Republicans have stood firm against expanding background checks.

"Anything that has an expansion of background checks is problematic for me," Ward said.

Gun laws are under scrutiny in Congress and statehouses across the country in the wake of the December school shooting in Connecticut. Colorado's Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed bills Wednesday requiring universal background checks for gun purchases and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Those measures have been a hard sell at the Minnesota Capitol. Lawmakers quickly abandoned efforts to ban assault weapons and larger magazines.

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