Others’ opinion: Minnesota House shuts down gun safety bills

Published 8:05 am Friday, March 23, 2018

Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In a shameful action, a Minnesota House public safety committee brought a halt to two eminently reasonable and needed pieces of gun safety legislation, doing its best to ensure that the bills will not move forward this year.

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The two bills — on universal background checks and protection orders that would temporarily remove guns from people deemed dangerous — have broad public support and deserve full hearings and a floor vote.

Incredibly, the vote to table the bills came just hours after news broke that yet another American school had been struck by gun violence. This time it was Great Mills High School in Maryland, where two students were wounded when a fellow student opened fire with a handgun in a hallway. He was quickly confronted by a courageous school resource officer, who exchanged gunfire with the shooter. It was not immediately clear if the 17-year-old shooter was killed in that exchange or took his own life.

It should be clear even to the most hardened gun-rights advocate that this nation’s gun laws are not working, and that schoolchildren are paying the heaviest price.

Yet some on the GOP-dominated Minnesota House committee appeared almost cavalier about shutting down the bills. That is unbecoming for those elected to serve this state and wrestle with its most difficult problems. Florida legislators learned firsthand how grave this situation has become when they walked through the bloodstained, bullet-marked halls of the Parkland school. They voted to enact gun-safety laws.

Minnesota legislators should take heed of how quickly the debate is changing on gun safety. The NRA knows. That’s why its chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, in a remarkable switch-up, went on NRATV recently to make the case for gun violence protection orders similar to the bill tabled in St. Paul. In an argument virtually indistinguishable from those of some gun-safety advocates, Cox said protection orders could “stop dangerous people before they act,” adding that, “There will always be evil in this world. That won’t change. But we can change our response. We can take action and prevent violence and protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans at the same time.”

Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, sponsor of the two tabled bills, said that’s what he wants: common-sense reforms that will prevent violence while protecting Second Amendment rights. He noted that when the bills initially were tabled two weeks ago, he was told it was because the committee wanted to consider other possible bills. But there were no other bills. There was no other discussion. And now the deadline for legislation to move forward is passing. That doesn’t mean these bills are dead. But it will take a herculean effort to resurrect them.

Minnesotans who showed up at Tuesday’s hearing got a lesson in how rough-and-tumble democracy can be. Our message to them: Don’t be discouraged; double down. If the other side sends 2,000 e-mails, you send 10,000. Show up at hearings. Show up in offices. Keep showing up. Make it clear that guns may be a way of life for some Minnesotans, but that every way of life comes with limits. Even the NRA recognizes that.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly attributed a comment to a Republican legislator that could not be confirmed by video or audiotapes of the committee hearing. A GOP House spokesman says the comment was made by an audience member at the hearing.

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