Scaled-back gun bill moves ahead in Minn. Senate

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Sen. Ron Latz
A file photo from Feb. 21, 2013 shows DFL Sen. Ron Latz and the Senate Judiciary committee listening to testimony on several gun-related bills. Latz has sponsored a scaled-back version of a gun bill that stripped all provisions deemed too controversial to pass earlier in the session.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

A significantly scaled-back plan to revise Minnesota's gun laws advanced toward a final Senate vote after receiving the blessing Tuesday of a vocal gun-rights group.

The proposal was revised to remove language that could be construed as requiring expanded background checks or limitations on lawful gun ownership. The sponsor also abandoned a section of the bill that would have put more "crimes of violence'' on a state list of offenses that make a person ineligible to own a gun in the future.

As it stands now, the bill fills gaps in databases consulted in present gun background checks by including court records from longer ago. It cleared the Senate Finance Committee, its last stop, by a 15-2 margin.

Sen. Ron Latz, a St. Louis Park Democrat and the legislation's sponsor, stripped all provisions deemed controversial and assured fellow lawmakers that it would stay that way.

"There won't be any room for anyone to make an extra run" at expanded gun laws, Latz said.

Joe Olson of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance said his group, which helped scuttle other firearms bills this session, won't get in the way.

"We have absolutely no objections to the bill as it is being amended," Olson said.

It would speed the transfer of certain records to a national background database used by law enforcement to make decisions on legal gun ownership. It would also entail going over tens of thousands of paper court records that were used prior to electronic record-keeping, in an effort to make the database more complete.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, previously shelved a gun bill in his chamber for the year after it became clear that broader background check requirements couldn't pass. He said the House would be willing to consider no-controversy gun law changes, but leaders there have no interest in debating a proposal to expand background checks that would be doomed.

"I don't see the point of taking a vote just to take a vote. If we're going to get something good done, then I'm happy to proceed on that,'' Thissen said, adding, "If we can come to an agreement where we get the votes there, bipartisan support I suppose, I'm happy doing something on guns."

Rural Democrats and a united Republican caucus in the House joined to stall the wider-reaching gun measures.

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