Senate gun hearing draws passionate testimony

Waiting in line
Attendees of a gun control hearing wait with their tickets, which were required to enter because of the high public interest, at the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by DFL Sen. Ron Latz, heard testimony on several gun-related bills.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Gun rights advocates say many of the gun control proposals being considered by state legislators will do more to infringe on their rights than to reduce violence.

During a Senate committee hearing Thursday at the Capitol, activists spoke out passionately against a proposal to require background checks for nearly all gun sales.

Under the bill a private person who wants to sell a gun to another private party would have to go through a licensed dealer, and be subject to fees as much as $50. Andrew Rothman of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, told legislators that laws like this chip away at the 2nd Amendment.

"These bills add obstacle after obstacle, impediment after impediment," Rothman said. "Want to buy your buddy's gun? Add $50 to the price. Add $50 to exercise a constitutional right. Sounds like a poll tax."

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Supporters of the background check bill said a majority of Americans think it is a good idea to require all gun buyers to submit to criminal background checks. Gun rights advocates said the law will not stop criminals from getting guns, because they don't buy guns the way law-abiding people do.

Click for more photos of the Senate gun hearing

Another gun control proposal appears to have the support of gun rights advocates. The bill seeks to add a few crimes of violence to the list of offenses that disqualify a person from possessing firearms. It also cracks down on repeat juvenile gun offenders.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman helped craft the legislation and said the measure gives prosecutors the ability to prevent firearms getting into the hands of "folks who've already shown that they are either a danger to themselves or others or have already committed crimes of violence."