Gun control bill introduced in House

A House DFL leader announced a gun control bill at the Capitol Thursday, which does not include a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Public Safety committee, unveiled his bill called the Gun Violence Prevention Act. The proposal includes background checks for most gun sales and more tools for prosecutors and law enforcement officers to help them keep guns out of the hands of people who are legally prohibited from having them.

The background check provision applies to pistols and semi-automatic assault weapons exchanged between people who are not related by blood or marriage.

Paymar says he decided not to include any proposed gun or ammunition bans after listening to public testimony earlier this month.

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"We had hearings on those bills. They were controversial. I think that some of the language in those bills were maybe, not quite ready for prime time," said Paymar.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, a gun rights supporter, says he thinks Paymar backed off the ban because assault rifles like the AR-15 are popular with hunters.

Cornish opposes nearly all of the provisions in Paymar's bill. He said he especially dislikes a provision that would give police chiefs the authority to deny a transfer permit or permit to purchase to an applicant, based on calls of service to that person's address.

"None of us have any interest in opening that up," said Cornish, "giving the police chiefs or sheriffs more authority to deny permits than they have."

Cornish says he supports leaving current laws on gun permits and transfers in place. He says he does support a part of the bill that would add stronger penalties for people who knowingly sell guns to criminals.

Paymar says some DFLers from rural and suburban districts might also have some problems with parts of the bill. And he expects other lawmakers will propose amendments to the legislation as it continues through committee.

However, Paymar says background checks and stronger penalties for gun offenders should gain bipartisan support.