New Minnesota legislature takes a look at firearm bills

Sen. Ron Latz, center, D-St. Louis Park, listens to a question during a news conference where he introduced two gun violence prevention bills Jan. 24, at the State Capitol in St. Paul.

The 2018 election results in Minnesota brought the Democrats into the majority in the House and kept a Democrat in the Governor’s office.

As a result early legislation has carried a decidedly left leaning agenda including the introduction of two bills aimed at gun control – a hot button liberal issue and a staple of the party’s traditional platform.

This type of political maneuvering is expected anytime one party or the other gains the voting advantage. Politicians make their living in St. Paul and in order to survive they must appease the voters that put them in office.

They are the elected voice of the constituency that pays the bills.

But one must ask themselves just how genuine this latest attempt to “control” guns really is – as if at this point it’s even possible when there are more than 393 million civilian owned firearms in the United States.

If passed, will these bills actually curb gun violence? Will they get guns out of the hands of criminals? Will any of it make a real difference?

Or is it all just politics as usual, where our elected officials throw the same old tired ideas at a wall in hopes of creating the illusion that they actually care?

It’s nearly impossible to put the cat back in the bag, so to speak, and looking at the two proposals currently making headlines it appears that Democrats have gone back to the same old well instead of offering any new solutions to combat gun violence like better security at schools and other locations shooters target.

Instead, they are, once again, taking aim at the crowd most likely not to shoot up a school – at least in one of the bills.

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Democrats have come up with two proposals thus far and introduced versions in both the House and Senate.

Both bills expand on current laws.

One has to do with expanding background checks to include private party transfers of all firearms including shotguns and traditional hunting rifles like the trusty Marlin 30-30.

The second is protective order legislation, or a “red flag” bill, which, if passed, would allow family members or police to petition a court for an emergency order allowing officers to remove guns from a person’s home.

There’s a lot of ground to cover here so this week we will take a look at the background bill and next week we will tackle the more controversial “red flag” bill.

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There is already a law on the books in Minnesota requiring firearms transferees (people who sell guns) to have a permit to do that. They have to have a background check and be approved by the local sheriff or other law enforcement personnel in order to do business.

The new law being proposed would require background checks for firearms transfers between everyday citizens.

The Senate version of the bill is entitled SF 434 and amends Minnesota Statutes 2018, sections 624.7131; 624.7132; 624.714, subdivision 4; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 624.

First, the bill would change the wording the current statute from “pistol or semiautomatic military style assault weapon” to “firearms,” and states: “A person who is not a firearms dealer is prohibited from transferring a firearm to any other person who is not a firearms dealer, unless the transferee presents a valid state permit to carry or has a transferee permit issued by law enforcement. ”

Under the proposed law, there are several examples of when a person could sell or transfer a firearm to another without the permit – for example to a relative.

There are also some questionable sections like the line that states an individual could only loan a firearm to a friend for something like hunting or a shooting competition for 12 hours.

After that they are breaking the law if they don’t have the transferee permit.

Assuming the transferee doesn’t have a carry permit or meet the criteria outlined in the bill to proceed without one, they would have to apply for a permit through their local law enforcement person and undergo a background check.

A transferee permit would be good for one year during which time law enforcement would have the ability to check up on said permit holder monthly via follow up background checks.

Those engaged in a private sale would have to have a record of the transfer and would be required to basically do all the things required for a sale at a store or gun show, including copying identification, getting a signed statement from the buyer that they are not criminals, and writing down information about the firearm including make, model and serial number.

Both buyer and seller would need to keep that record for five years and if at some point during that time law enforcement were to ask for a copy and it wasn’t produced, transferee would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

Yes, you read that right – a gross misdemeanor.

In Minnesota the maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is up to one year in jail and/or up to a $3,000 fine – maximums rarely reached at sentencing time.

Of course, there is one more line in the legislation that could potentially serve as motivation – mostly to law-abiding types like you and I: “A prosecution or conviction for violation of this subdivision is not a bar to conviction of or punishment for any other crime committed involving the transferred firearm. ”

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Is any of this enough to motivate a bad person not to do bad things?

In the end, does this law have the potential to save a life when there are already 393 million guns in America?

Seems to me a security guard and metal detectors would work better.

The other part of this discussion that people don’t get – or don’t want to believe – is many law-abiding citizens already take the precautions spelled out in this bill.

Some don’t of course but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a person who would sell a handgun to anyone these days without first seeing a carry permit (which requires a background check to obtain) and getting something in writing.

I sold a 30.06 hunting rifle to a guy nearly 15 years ago and I still have the signed piece of paper in my safe stating that he bought the firearm from me, on the date he bought it, complete with a serial number and date.

So go ahead, pass your expanded background check legislation. It won’t change a thing in any meaningful way.

Law abiding gun owners will jump through the hoops to buy and sell and life will go on.

But bad people will still do bad things until we get real about gun violence and start protecting ourselves and our most vulnerable citizens in a realistic way from the mad men and women who don’t care about the law.

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