Bennett, Sparks speak against proposed gun bills

Published 6:43 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

By Sam Wilmes

Local legislators are speaking against two gun-related measures being discussed at the Minnesota Legislature.

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A Minnesota House committee voted Wednesday night to require universal background checks for gun purchasers as the Legislature took up the contentious issue for the first time this session.

The House Public Safety Committee approved the bill on a 9-7 vote. The bill next goes to the Ways and Means Committee.

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin

The committee then passed a proposed “red flag” law Thursday night that would allow families and police to get court orders to temporarily remove guns from people judged to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said he does not support either bill in its current form.

He said universal background checks could hinder the transfer of firearms between generations in families, adding he believes the rights of gun owners “are very important.”

He said county sheriffs can already reject gun permit applications.

On taking firearms from gun owners deemed a threat by a judge, Sparks said it will be difficult for the legislation to pass this year. He noted that it could result in increased paperwork for police and law enforcement who are already “very busy.”

Both bills are expected to win approval on the House floor and are on the top 10 priorities list for the House Democratic majority.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said they’re not going anywhere in his chamber. But Democratic Sen. Ron Latz said he’s ready to try a procedural maneuver to force votes if need be.

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, said universal background checks would not “do one thing to solve anything.”

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea

She said in some cases, the proposed legislation would turn law-abiding citizens into criminals. She said the No. 1 cause of gun deaths is suicide, with the second-most being gang-related. She questioned whether criminals would obey the new law.

Bennett said legislation should address mental health and anti-gang initiatives.

She expressed concern a gun registration could lead to gun confiscation.

Bennett said the legislation changes the minimum age to own a gun to 21 and requires all gun transfers to take place through a gun shop, placing a burden on people legally transferring firearms.

“The unintended consequences are not good,” she said.

On the “red flag” legislation, Bennett said though she supports taking guns from dangerous people, she expressed concern it would take due process away from the accused without a court hearing.

She said though gun deaths need to be addressed, she does not believe a universal policy will alleviate the issue.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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