In about-face, Walz backs assault weapons ban for Minnesota

Minnesota U.S Rep. Tim Walz, a DFL candidate for governor this year, said Tuesday he's backing an assault-weapons ban in Minnesota and other "common sense solutions" to stop gun violence.

Walz has touted his support from the NRA in prior campaigns, donning a camouflaged NRA hat while running in a southern Minnesota district filled with rural towns.

But the mass shooting at a Florida high school last week by a young gunman with an AR-15 assault rifle laid bare what has been a simmering divide as DFL candidates combined their condolences with calls to action.

On Tuesday, Walz posted a statement saying that after hearing the "anger, grief and frustration" of people across Minnesota over gun violence, "I get it."

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When asked later if his change in position is because of heat he's taking during the contest for the DFL endorsement for governor, Walz said he's always learning.

"As a legislator I've always been proud to say if the facts dispute our ideology, we change the ideology," he said after attending a rally at the Capitol. "And I have done that on numerous issues and this is one that I think I'm moving where the country is moving."

Still unclear is what would count as an assault weapon that would be banned. Walz said he would consult with gun owners and others to define that, basing it on factors such as firing capacity.

"This is one of those cases where people know what these things are, they know why they're buying them and they're ending up in these horrific situations," Walz told reporters. "Going forward, that's why we bring in the responsible gun owners. We ask them. We ask them to sit there at the table and talk to us about getting this right."

He reiterated that he's donated contributions to him from the NRA and won't take any in the future.

"All Minnesotans want solutions to ending gun violence and they want them now," he said. "They've had it and I've had it with the years of obstruction and inaction."

He vowed to build new coalitions to "finally end the obstruction, get the NRA out of the way and get us to the common-sense solutions that we all agree on, "including universal background checks, a bump-stock ban and "and yes, after listening hard to Minnesotans, an assault-weapons ban in Minnesota."

One of his opponents in the race for the DFL endorsement said Minnesotans will have to decide whether Walz is changing his position for political gain.

"I mean it is an election year. He's running for a very different position," said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester. "I frankly think he was always wrong in his support of the gun lobby."