Gun proposals split DFLers at Capitol

Michael Paymar
State Rep. Michael Paymar, D-St. Paul, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, talks with reporters after a break in testimony at the state Capitol on two bills dealing with the gun violence issue Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, in St. Paul, Minn. Paymar is sponsoring the universal background check bill.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

A Minnesota House committee is scheduled to debate a gun bill this week that is dividing Democrats.

The House Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on legislation that would require background checks on every gun purchase in Minnesota.

DFL Rep. Michael Paymar of St. Paul said he intends to push for background checks despite signs that a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the NRA and the Minnesota Sheriffs Association prefer a different bill.

"I'd love to be able to come up with a compromise that can pass the Legislature," Paymar said, "but I refuse to budge from universal background checks. [Hennepin County] Sheriff [Rich] Stanek knows that, Rep. [Debra] Hilstrom [DFL-Brooklyn Center] knows that and the leadership of my caucus knows that. Eventually they're going to have to vote on this on the House floor."

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The committee may not support background checks and may choose to strip the measure out of the bill and insert tougher penalties for those who buy guns illegally.

Supporters of both approaches are still working on the issue, said DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen.

"There's a very broadly shared concern that we address of gun safety and gun violence," Thissen said. "People just have different perspectives on how we get there, but I remain optimistic that we're going to move forward with some sort of gun safety legislation this year."

A Senate committee recently approved legislation that required background checks on all gun purchases. The author of the bill said he thinks there are enough votes in the Senate to pass his bill.

Critics of background checks argue that the measure is an infringement on Second Amendment Rights, while Gov. Mark Dayton has said he thinks background checks are a common-sense idea.