Minnesota Legislature approves two major gun control measures
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.
- New measures were recently signed into law in Colorado and Washington, while the Republican governor of Tennessee has called for an August special session on gun reforms following The Covenant school shooting.
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.
- It passed the Senate in a 34-33 vote last week, with all Democrats voting yes.
- 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.
- Other top issues poised to pass ahead of a May 22 adjournment deadline include recreational marijuana legalization and the creation of a state paid family and medical leave program.
What's next: Once signed by Walz, both laws will take effect in August.
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