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Where Minnesota Lawmakers Stand On Solutions For Gun Violence

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- After the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, the question of how to stop such violence is once again part of the national conversation.

James Densley, a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University, helped found the non-partisan Violence Project to study the topic.

The Violence Project interviews perpetrators of mass shootings, victims' families, survivors and first responders as part of its holistic approach.

"We just want people to act, and we want the shooting to stop," Densley said.

He says mass shooters often have reached a crisis point in their lives that's noticeable to the people around them.

"We need much better de-escalation, crisis intervention and suicide prevention in our schools, workplaces and communities," he said.

Densley also says media coverage must be responsible. It should not glorify shooters' actions. He says access to firearms is another issue that can at least partly be addressed with legislation.

"Things like background checks, wait periods, permit to purchase, red flag laws for those who are in a crisis and shouldn't be getting access to firearms," Densley said. "None of these things infringe on people's Second Amendment rights, but they really would have a big impact."


Minnesota Representatives and Senators
(credit: CBS)

WCCO reached out to Minnesota's eight U.S. Representatives and Senators asking what they're doing to stop tragedies like the ones in Boulder and, last week, in Atlanta. We asked if there was legislation they supported or planned to introduce.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and Reps. Angie Craig, Dean Phillips, Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar responded to our questions.

Rep. Michelle Fischbach declined to comment. Reps. Jim Hagedorn, Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber didn't respond Tuesday.

Responses included co-sponsoring bills that close loopholes, ban assault weapons and require background checks on nearly all gun sales. The lawmakers' full statements are below.

Two background check bills passed in the House this month. The votes among Minnesota's Representatives were split down party lines, with Craig, Phillips, McCollum and Omar voting Yea, and Hagedorn, Emmer, Fischbach and Stauber voting Nay.

WCCO reached out to the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and the Minnesota Rifle and Revolver Association, a state chapter of the National Rifle Association, to ask their thoughts on solutions to ending mass shootings. We didn't hear back.

Sen. Klobuchar shared a press release on her activity in Washington D.C. Tuesday:

At today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) emphasized the need to pass gun violence prevention legislation. Noting that many states, including Minnesota, have taken action to prevent abusive dating partners from purchasing a gun, Klobuchar highlighted that her bill to close the "boyfriend loophole" at the federal level recently passed the House with bipartisan support as a part of the legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. She also discussed the tragic shooting that occurred at the Allina Health Clinic in Buffalo, MN, last month, and asked about how Extreme Risk Protection Order laws can help prevent mass shootings.

From Sen. Smith's staff:

Sen. Smith's pressing for long overdue reforms to protect our communities in Minnesota and across the country from gun violence. She believes that Congress needs to close dangerous loopholes and ensure universal background checks; ban military-style assault weapons; and fund programs that address the root causes of violence. Here are some of the bills she supports, among many others:

  • Senator Murphy's Background Check Expansion Act, which would require a federal background check for all gun sales. Currently, unlicensed and private sellers are not required to conduct background checks. 
  • Senator Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban, which would ban the sale, transfer, manufacture, and importation of semiautomatic rifles, semiautomatic pistols, semiautomatic shotguns, and ammunition feeding devices.
  • Senator Markey's 3D Printed Gun Safety Act, which would make it illegal to publish digital instructions for the 3D printing of firearms.
  • Senator Klobuchar's Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, which would expand current law to prohibit dating non-married dating partners convicted of domestic violence offenses from accessing firearms.

Rep. Craig's response:

Representative Angie Craig is committed to passing commonsense gun safety legislation that will keep our communities safe and address the gun violence epidemic in this country. That's why, last week, Angie helped pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which requires a background check for every gun sale or transfer and the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which would close the Charleston Loophole. Rep. Craig is also a cosponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban legislation introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman David N. Cicilline and has voted to allow the CDC to research gun violence for the first time in decades.

Rep. Phillips' response:

There are several bills listed below that Rep. Phillips worked on last Congress, but the one below we are particularly interested in this bill for the current Congress:

HR 435 National Gun Violence Research Act

This bill amends various provisions of law and sets forth new provisions to promote gun violence research.

Among other things, the bill does the following:

  • Removes limitations on the use of firearms tracing data by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives;
  • Permits funds made available to the Department of Health and Human Services to be used for gun violence research;
  • Establishes the National Gun Violence Research Program to promote gun violence research; and
  • Authorizes various competitive grants to support research into the nature, causes, consequences, and prevention of gun violence

Other bills: the HR 8, The Bipartisan Background Checks Act, HR 5602(Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act), HR 4836 (Break the Cycle of Violence Act), HR 3665 (The School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act), HR 2708 (The Disarm Hate Act), HR 2585 (The Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act), HR 1236 (Extreme Risk Protection Order Act), HR 1296 (Assault Weapons Ban Act).

Rep. McCollum's response:

Congresswoman McCollum is a co-sponsor of the following legislation to help end gun violence and keep our communities safe:

  • Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8): Requires a background check for every gun sale or transfer to ensure that individuals already prohibited from gun possession under federal law, such as felons, domestic abusers and those who are considered a danger to themselves or others, are not able to obtain firearms. (PASSED the House on 3/11/21)
  • Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 1446): Closes the "Charleston Loophole" – which allows a gun sale to proceed even before the background check is completed – and extends the initial background check review period from three to 10 business days. (PASSED the House on 3/11/21)
  • COOL OFF Act(H.R. 1454): Requires a 3-day waiting period for handgun sales. It aims to have potential perpetrators of gun violence "cool off" before deciding to inflict harm on themselves or others.
  • Gun Violence Prevention Research Act(H.R. 825): Authorizes $50m for the CDC to conduct gun violence research.
  • Gun Violence Prevention Research Act(H.R. 1266): Subjects gun parts and gun kits to the same background checks that apply to fully-assembled guns.
  • Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act(H.R. 2585): Establishes an interagency Advisory Council to gather and disseminate resources and information for victims of gun violence. In addition, the council would be required to submit to Congress a report on these resources and identify any gaps in policy that the government could address.
  • Assault Weapons Ban (H.R. 1808): Regulates assault weapons to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited.

Congresswoman McCollum shares her condolences with the loved ones of the victims of the Boulder shooting, and encourages the Senate to take up the House-passed legislation as soon as possible.

Rep. Omar referred us to a Tuesday morning tweet: "This is the 7th mass shooting in 7 days. Our communities are living in terror and they need more than our 'thoughts and prayers'. No more cowering to the gun lobby. We need to pass gun safety legislation NOW."

In general, she supports:

  • Ban the sale of assault weapons.
  • Prevent convicted domestic and animal abusers from accessing guns.
  • Remove the federal ban on researching the impact of gun violence in our communities.
  • Support the funding and accessibility of mental health services and substance use treatment so that vulnerable individuals can get the help they need.
  • Address the bullying epidemic in our schools and enhance mental health services for our youth.
  • Close the gun show loophole and require background checks for every single firearm sale, no matter the circumstances.
  • Fully fund grants to local communities to help improve local record keeping and reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

To see the gun legislation Omar has co-sponsored, click here.

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