ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Minnesota Democrats at the State Capitol are renewing efforts to expand background checks and enact a "red flag" law in response to the mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and elsewhere in America in recent weeks.
"It's beyond unacceptable and we simply cannot allow it to continue, not here in Minnesota, not anywhere in our country," said Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen (DFL-Edina). "Our Republican colleagues are more interesting in banning books in schools than guns in schools."
Federally-licensed firearm dealers are required to conduct a background check on the person seeking to purchase a weapon, but there are no background checks if someone is gifting or loaning a gun, or the transfer of privately-owned firearms. The legislation DFL lawmakers are proposing expands background checks to these transfers.
They also are looking to pass a so-called "red flag" law, which would allow the courts to confiscate a person's firearms if deemed a harm to themselves or others. A similar law is from Everytown for Gun Safety.. A total of 19 states have measures in place like this, according to research
A recent CBS News poll shows there is broad support among Americans for these policies.
"We need more than platitudes and talking points," said. Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park). "We need action."
The gun safety measures Franzen and other legislative Democrats are seeking have passed the Minnesota House in recent years but have failed in a Republican-controlled Senate. They want their GOP colleagues to include their gun proposals in a broad public safety agreement if there is a special session to wrap up work left unfinished when the legislature ended last month.
Gov. Tim Walz has said he wants a special session, but only if leaders can sort out remaining differences. It's unclear at this time if lawmakers will come back.
GOP Sen. Warren Limmer, who is the lead in the Senate on public safety, in a statement pushed back on the renewed effort by Democrats, saying the party ignored other measures to improve public safety and their proposals won't impact crime in Minnesota, which has increased.
"In the last few weeks passed significant funding to recruit and retain law enforcement, demanded accountability from judges and attorneys, and proposed cracking down on repeat violent criminals. House Democrats in Conference Committee were opposed to these proposals," Limmer said in a statement. "I find it hard to take their proposals today seriously when they won't agree to these commonsense ideas that will actually protect our citizens from the threat posed by violent criminals today."
Under federal law, an individual must be 21 or older to purchase most firearms. But at 18, someone can purchase a shotgun, rifle or semi-automatic weapon. Democrats also want to raise that legal age to 21.
Current laws in Minnesota require a person seeking to purchase a military-style weapon from a licensed gun seller to pass a background check and have an additional purchase permit or permit to carry approved by law enforcement in order to buy one. That provision is more unique to Minnesota and makes state laws here much stricter, said Rob Doar, senior vice president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.
If a person is found incompetent to stand trial or determined mentally ill in a court proceeding, state law prohibits possession of any firearm.
Doar and his organization are against the measures put forward by the Senate DFL. He raised concerns about the red flag law proposal, saying it deprives an individual of due process in court.
"The guns themselves are not the problem," he said. "The vast majority of the legislation that we see proposed is only going to be felt by law-abiding gun owners, not the people we actually want to make sure that guns stay away from."
Everytown for Gun Safety ranks Minnesota 17th in the nation for its gun safety laws.
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