ST. PAUL —
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said he scrapped his bill to require background checks for all gun sales in the state in order to pass something out of the House Public Safety Committee, which he chairs. He said the trimmed-down bill, addressing only sales at gun shows, was "a huge piece of the puzzle" in addressing gun violence in Minnesota. It requires anyone buying a pistol or assault weapon at a gun show to present a permit-to-carry or permit-to-purchase.
The bill also includes provisions to improve the information the state sends to a national background check database and helps county attorneys crack down on illegal gun owners.
The measure is a compromise between Paymar and Rep. Debra Hilstrom, a fellow Democrat from Brooklyn Center who introduced a bill in early March that would improve — but not expand — the state's current system.
The National Rifle Association built up support for that alternate bill, which would require the state to send mental health commitment information to the national database of people who can't legally own a gun and 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 so-called straw purchases in which an eligible person buys a weapon for someone who legally cannot.
Some rural Democrats, including Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said they'd rather go ahead with the NRA-backed bill. Poppe and 16 other Democrats, including Ward, are co-authors of that legislation.
"That's the bill that has the votes to pass," Poppe said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill with universal background checks last week on a party-line vote, with all Republicans opposed. The future of that legislation is hazy, too.