According to a news release, state Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, chair of the committee, explained the purpose of the hearing was to hear both Republican and Democrat proposals, and from the citizens of Greater Minnesota who may not be able to travel to the capitol to participate.
“Often these issues are heard in the metropolitan area by people from that area,” Limmer said during the hearing. “But anything the Legislature passes affects the entire state, so folks in rural parts of Minnesota are going to have to live under these laws, too.”
A recent increase in crime left many citizens asking what more can be done to prevent and protect themselves. Homicides in St. Paul doubled from 2018 to 2019 alone. A recent report from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission documented a 100% increase — from 234 offenders in 2010 to 468 in 2018 — of “possession of a firearm by a felon convicted of a crime of violence.” Media reports on crimes in the urban core and violent outbursts on public transit were part of the motivation to further explore what laws may already be on the books at a previous committee hearing in December.
In Hibbing, the first bill heard was presented by its author, Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake.
“The bill tightens up the requirements for law enforcement to ensure individuals ordered by the court, through due process, to turn in their guns actually do so,” Pratt said. “Too many people are falling through the cracks when these court orders aren’t enforced. I believe we should have our existing laws enforced effectively before we start passing new laws that will affect law-abiding citizens buying and possessing firearms.”
According to the release, the committee then moved on to review bills known as Universal Background Checks and Red Flag laws. Testifiers opposed to the measures highlighted the burdens placed on Greater Minnesotans and minorities with having to locate a federal firearms license holder to complete a background check and the cost of having to pay for it. They also shared concerns that “red flag” laws violate due process and would lead to false reports motivated by revenge or retribution.
Sens. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, and Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, offered proposed legislation to expand the rights of lawful gun owners in Minnesota.
According to the release, Koran and Lang both presented a bill to provide permit-less carry, allowing any citizen who is eligible to own a gun the right to carry a gun. Ruud’s bill covered Stand Your Ground language to allow individuals facing an attack or imminent danger the right to defend themselves.
“We have a constitutional right to protect ourselves, our families, and our property,” Ruud said. ”No one should have to worry about any repercussions when acting in self-defense within their own home. We care about defending the peace of mind Minnesotans are entitled to.”
The final bill of the hearing was presented by Sen. Paul Anderson, R-Plymouth.
“The only way we’re going to successfully curb gun violence is by working together, in our common interests, using commonsense, and in a bipartisan way,” Anderson said. “My bipartisan bill to increase the penalties for those who illegally transfer firearms to an ineligible person is a perfect example of legislation that makes commonsense, and will make our communities safer by working to get guns out of the hands of violent criminals.”
“My biggest takeaway was that law-abiding citizens don’t want their guns confiscated without due process, and they don’t want laws that look like gun owner registration, but they also support the need to enforce the laws we already have on the books,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said after the hearing. “The laws that actually fill in gaps in enforcement and have bipartisan support are the laws the Senate will consider.”
The informational hearing during legislative interim meant there were no votes on any of the bills. The Legislature will return to session Feb. 11.