Apr 30, 2024 - News

Minnesota House Democrats vow to pass three gun safety bills, Senate fate uncertain

Illustration of the Minnesota State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A trio of gun bills set to pass the Minnesota House faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

The big picture: While they have full control of state government, Minnesota Democrats are still looking to lock in aye votes on several key issues with just three weeks until adjournment.

Driving the news: A bill requiring that lost or stolen firearms be reported within 48 hours passed the House late Monday, with only DFL votes.

Yes, but: With a razor-thin 34-33 majority in the Senate, a single DFL member has the power to block party-line legislation that other Democrats want to pass.

  • Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy wouldn't say Monday whether the measures currently have the votes to pass among her caucus.
  • The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, which opposes all three bills, contends they don't.

Plus: Questions over the role and future of a DFL state senator charged with felony burglary could further complicate the vote math — and timeline — for getting the bills done.

Context: These bills build on a pair of major gun laws that Democrats passed last year.

  • Those cleared the Senate on a party line and the House with all but one Democrat voting aye.

Zoom in: The measures under consideration in the House this week would:

  • Mandate that owners report lost or stolen firearms within 48 hours of realizing they are missing.
  • Require that unused guns are stored either in a firearm storage unit or unloaded and equipped with a locking device.
  • Make it a felony to purchase a gun for someone who isn't eligible to possess one.

What they're saying: Supporters say the changes will help prevent weapons from landing in the wrong hands and reduce child firearm deaths.

  • "The bills we are hearing today will save lives," House Public Safety Chair Kelly Moller said at a news conference Monday.

The other side: Republicans opposing the reporting bill argued that making it a misdemeanor to fail to notify law enforcement of a stolen gun in time could unfairly criminalize gun owners who are victims of theft.

  • Rob Doar, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, told Axios that they also have "significant concerns" about the safe storage bill's "harsh penalties" and one-size-fits-all approach.
  • "It treats a daycare provider in Edina the same as a farmer who lives alone up in northern Minnesota, as far as the expectations of the storage of their firearms," he said.

The intrigue: Tougher penalties for "straw purchasers" seemed poised to get bipartisan support in the wake of February's fatal shooting of two police officers and a paramedic in Burnsville by a convicted felon whose girlfriend has been accused of buying him the gun he used.

  • But Republicans and gun rights advocates take issue with other language in the bill to ban certain types of triggers.

What we're hearing: DFL Sen. Heather Gustafson, a co-author of two of the bills, told Axios she's confident she will secure the votes to pass the safe storage and straw purchase measures.

  • DFL Rep. Kaohly Her, the House author of the safe storage bill, echoed that late last week, saying she's "very close" to the votes needed to pass the Senate.

Who we're watching: Sen. Grant Hauschild, a freshman Democrat from Northern Minnesota, could be a deciding vote in the Senate.

  • Doar said Monday that one of the senator's legislative aides told a Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus member that he's a no.
  • Hauschild, one of four moderate "majority makers" in the Senate, declined to comment to Axios on Monday.
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