May 16, 2023 - News

Minnesota Legislature approves two major gun control measures

white minneosta capitol dome exterior against a blue sign

The Minnesota Legislature is zooming toward adjournment. Photo: Michael Siluk/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Minnesota is poised to adopt a pair of gun control measures that Democrats and activists for tougher firearm restrictions have sought for years.

Driving the news: The DFL-majority House gave final approval early Tuesday to a public safety package that includes a "red flag" law and expanded background checks for private gun sales.

  • Gov. Tim Walz has said he plans to sign the bill into law.

Details: Under the "red flag" provision, a family member, current or former spouse, roommate, mental health provider or law enforcement official could petition a judge to approve taking firearms from someone who "poses a significant danger" of harming others or is at risk of suicide.

  • The law makes it a misdemeanor to target a gun owner with a false claim.

Plus: A separate provision extends background check requirements to private transfers of pistols and "semi automatic military-style assault weapons."

  • Transfers between family members and law enforcement are exempt.

The big picture: Minnesota will join a number of other states moving to restrict firearm access in response to concerns about mass shootings and other forms of gun violence.

Catch up fast: Democratic leaders in Minnesota had pledged to use their full control at the Capitol to pass the measures this session, arguing that they will reduce gun deaths.

  • But several Senate Democrats from swing districts whose votes were needed were uncommitted until recently, leaving the bills in limbo for much of the session.

What happened: Both measures were ultimately folded into the final version of a sweeping budget bill that includes $880 million in new spending for public safety and the courts, along with other police reforms and crime prevention programs.

  • The House approved the package in a largely party-line vote just after midnight Tuesday, with just one Democrat, Iron Range Rep. Dave Lislegard, opposing.

What they're saying: Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action, said the "lifesaving package will go a long way toward keeping guns out of the wrong hands and funding localized community safety initiatives" to reduce gun violence.

The other side: Bryan Strawser, chairman of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, criticized the provisions as "ineffective and unconstitutional" in a recent statement.

  • He and other critics raised concerns that the language was added to the final spending bill with little public notice last week.

Between the lines: The vote is the latest example of Democrats using their full control at the Capitol to pass progressive priorities that stalled under divided government in recent years.

What's next: Once signed by Walz, both laws will take effect in August.


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