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Minnesota Senate passes public safety package with universal background checks, "red flag" law

Minnesota Senate debating public safety package that includes tougher gun laws
Minnesota Senate debating public safety package that includes tougher gun laws 02:32

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Senate on Friday night passed two measures seeking to curb gun violence, a significant step forward for the policies that sets the stage for them to become law.

The legislation would expand background checks to private gun transfers, not just purchases in federally licensed firearms dealers, and implement a "red flag" law authorizing extreme risk protection orders. That allows a family member or law enforcement to petition a court to suspend someone's access to guns if deemed a harm to themselves or others.

The proposals are included in a large spending package that advanced out of the chamber, which includes an $880 million funding boost for the court system, violence prevention and the Department of Corrections, among many other provisions.

The Senate began debate Friday afternoon but spent hours discussing the large proposal. They didn't pass the bill until just before midnight.

"Opponents have long said, 'It's not the guns. Don't come after our guns,''' said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, the Senate sponsor of the bill. "These proposals on the background checks will identify the people who are under existing law are not eligible to possess firearms."

"Same with the red flags—they are separating the people who at that moment in time are not in a good place to possess firearms from the guns themselves. So we're focusing on the people issue," he added.

In a DFL-led legislature, the Senate has just a one-seat majority. For many months there were a few Democrats who were on the fence about the gun restrictions, which threatened to derail their chance of passing that chamber.

But leaders were confident they had the votes, after House and Senate negotiators came to a public safety budget deal on Wednesday that included both policies.

Republicans criticized many of the provisions of the larger deal and argued the two gun measures infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

They also condemned how quickly the Democrats moved to pass the sweeping plan—the final legislation wasn't published until after 2 a.m. Friday, and it was brought up for debate 12 hours later.

"There is a reason the Senate has stood firm for the Second Amendment for all of these years and the new majority that has come in, without even the decency to give this a standalone vote, has tried to tuck it into a 500-page omnibus bill at the 11th hour on short notice," said Sen. Andrew Matthews, R-Princeton.

The House has previously approved the bills this year. On WCCO's "Sunday Morning" at 10:30 a.m., DFL House Speaker Melissa Horrman said her caucus "absolutely" has the votes to pass it.

The chamber will take up the public safety package Monday, and Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign it into law. 

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