by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
A sleeker gun bill cleared a House committee on Thursday, March 21, after a heftier one floundered for lack of votes.
But Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, was upbeat after the bill, which contains a so-called gun show loophole provision, passed his House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee to go to the House floor.
“I’m very pleased with what we did today,” Paymar said. The gun show loophole was plugged, he said.
In a compromise worked out with Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, the gun show provision was amended onto noncontroversial legislation sought by county prosecutors. Provisions in a bill that Paymar offered but could not get out of committee, including universal background check language that would have require background checks on all gun sales, aren’t found in the compromise bill.
Hilstrom, who is carrying gun legislation supported by the Minnesota’s Sheriffs’ Association and the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, spoke of trying to find a bipartisan solution.
“Ultimately, we needed a bill that can get out of committee,” Hilstrom said on Wednesday, March 20. “I think there will be discussions on the whole issue by the whole body — the House of Representatives,” she said.
With characteristic bluntness, a pro-gun rights House Republican earlier in the week predicted the fate of Paymar’s gun legislation.
“This bill is too horrible to get out of committee,” Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said.
Speaking after committee on Thursday, Cornish, a police chief whose lapel pins include a small pair of handcuffs, expressed confidence he could muster “common sense” votes to stop the compromise bill.
Under the bill’s gun show provision, a potential buyer needs to obtain a permit to purchase from local law enforcement in order to buy pistols or semiautomatic military-style assault weapons at gun shows.
A valid permit-to-carry gun license suffices for a permit to purchase because both require background checks, Paymar said.
If a non-licensed seller at a gun show sells a pistol or semiautomatic military-style assault weapons to a buyer without a proper permit, that would be a misdemeanor.
A gun show, as defined by the bill, means a public event with the primary purpose to facilitate the purchase or sale of guns at which 25 or more firearms are offered for transfer and 10 or more persons are offering one or more firearms.
“My hope is we could have a vote on the House floor on universal background checks,” Paymar said on Wednesday, March 20. While Paymar will not offer a universal background check amendment on the floor, he’s certain one will be offered.
In the Senate, Sen. Ron Latz’s omnibus gun bill recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which the St. Paul Louis Park Democrat chairs. The bill was scheduled to appear before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee this week, but was pulled.
Latz’s bill is broader in scope than the House bill.
“I’ll continue to work the Senate to get the strongest bill I can,” Latz said Thursday, March 21.
Asked if public resolve inflamed by the Newtown elementary school massacre was cooling with passing days, Latz said that’s a factor. But high profile shooting sprees are not the biggest tragedy, he said.
“The real gun epidemic are the deaths by ones, or twos, happening on the streets of our community every day,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said recently the challenge with pursuing universal background checks is the perception by the public they’re something more than they are.
Cornish argues the idea of gun show loopholes is fictitious because existing law was crafted to be as it is.
The compromise House bill passed the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on a 10-8 vote. It was not party line, with a Greater Minnesota Democrat voting against the bill.
Area lawmakers voting in favor were Hilstrom; Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins; and Slocum, DFL-Richfield. Voting against were Newberger, R-Becker, and Uglem, R-Champlin.
Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected]