Pair of Republicans make two new gun proposals

Rep. Sarah Anderson in St. Paul on Feb. 16, 2017.
Rep. Sarah Anderson in St. Paul on Feb. 16, 2017.

A pair of suburban Republicans in the Minnesota House introduced two gun proposals Wednesday, perhaps too late for action this year but also a recognition that the issue could be potent in the fall campaign.

The legislation comes well after deadlines for bills to be considered by committees, although measures can circumvent those deadlines if the majority party deems them priorities.

One bill encourages people who transfer or sell firearms in private transactions to use the background check system. It would provide them immunity from prosecution if the guns are later used in a crime. The second tightens laws about possession of guns by people convicted of domestic abuse or subject to protection orders, but gives those affected the promise of a quick hearing to challenge any revocation.

Republican Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth is the chief sponsor of both bills, which list Rep. Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie as cosponsors. Anderson said they're modeled after bills that have won approval elsewhere, including Wisconsin.

She pushed back on the idea they were designed as political cover in an election year when gun control groups are mobilizing around the topic and targeting suburban districts like hers.

Anderson said the immunity proposal is way to prod all gun sellers to make sure their buyers are qualified. Most but not all do now. She said the other bill is a response to a KARE 11 investigation that found lax enforcement of existing laws around surrender of weapons in domestic violence cases.

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“We have the laws in place and they’re just not being enforced," she said. "So we need to look at what the laws are in Minnesota, are they being followed? Clearly, this is one is glaringly not being followed."

Anderson said the bills probably came too late in session to be approved this year but she wants to start a conversation about them.

"I'm not afraid to work on issues over multiple years," she said.

The new bills don’t go as far as supporters of tougher gun restrictions have sought. Nancy Nord Bence, executive director of Protect Minnesota, said they represent a "tepid response" to a loud call for action on gun laws this year.

"This permit to purchase bill is an incremental baby step, largely designed to protect private sellers who choose to keep records of permits to purchase and permits to carry," Nord Bence said.

She said the short window for authorities to work to uphold revocations in domestic violence cases could result in guns being returned to people on technicalities.

Rob Doar, vice president and political director for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said his group was not consulted by the lawmakers before the bills were introduced. He said the organization is evaluating the proposals but has reservations about how they're structured.

Last week, the Minnesota Senate rejected two further-reaching gun measures on procedural grounds. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, assured pro-gun groups and Republican Party activists that the House would block passage of gun-control bills.