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Minnesota Gun Debate: Proposed Gun Ban Pits Safety vs. Second Amendment Rights

HF241 would ban assault weapons and provide a way to dispose of those lawfully possessed prior to the ban.

The Second Amendment gives Americans the right to keep and bear arms, but up for debate before a House committee Wednesday was if a certain type of gun should be banned.

Sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul), HF241 would ban assault weapons and provide a way to dispose of those lawfully possessed prior to the ban. It has no Senate companion.

Also scheduled to be heard at the second day of gun hearings by the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee was HF242 that would create a new crime for manufacturing, transferring or possessing large capacity magazines for firearms. Because of so much testimony on the assault weapons bill, HF242 has been pushed back to Thursday. The committee is scheduled to meet from 10 a.m. until noon and reconvene at 6 p.m.

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No votes are scheduled to be taken on any of the dozen bills to be heard during the three days, but Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), the committee chairman, plans to put together an omnibus gun bill this month that would encompass some of the ideas shared during the hearings.

Proponents of the assault weapons ban said it is needed, in part, because there is no real use for the weapons other than in the military.

“You don’t need them for sport, you don’t need them to hunt, you also don’t need them for self- protection in your home,” said former Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan.

A federal assaults weapon ban expired in 2004.

Assault weapons are commonly referenced as semiautomatic or modern sporting rifles with large detachable magazines, pistol grips and telescoping or folding stocks. Many hunters like to use them. Others said they are useful for mass killings.

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, urged members to remember the lives lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School and other shootings where an assault weapon was used.

“You need to remember, as you consider this, who those children are and how their families lives have been impacted. … If we don’t do something now, where does that changing world stop?”

The bill is a “moral issue,” said John Egelhof, a retired FBI agent, who was the first agent on the scene at the Red Lake School shooting in 2005.

“These weapons and components have not one legitimate use outside the battlefield or in the hands of a policeman.”

Chris Rager, a state liaison with the National Rifle Association of America, said the bill is “failed policy” because the previous federal ban was not successful in keeping these guns out of the hands of criminals.

He also said assault weapons are used in only a “small percentage” of firearm-related violent crimes.

“I’ve never seen a bill like this, and, I think it’s un-American,” Rager said.

“I think there are many law-abiding Minnesotans who choose to have this type of firearm for their defense. I’ve heard some people say here, ‘Why do you need that?’ I didn’t know it was a bill of needs or wants; I thought it was a Bill of Rights. … Now we’re going to turn that right into a privilege only if the government allows us to have those firearms.”

Tim Jezierski, a gun safety instructor from Two Harbors, questioned the bill’s fairness. “To anybody who practices … we’ve done nothing with this bill but disarm honest citizens.”

Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Stillwater) who sits on the committee said she ran for office to represent the people of her district with the principles of individual liberty and limited government.

"The second amendment to our US constitution assures our rights as private citizens to keep and bear arms for many reasons," Lohmer said. "I took an oath to uphold the constitution and I take this very seriously. I will never vote to limit the rights of citizens which are part of our constitution."

- Mike Cook, of Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Service contributed to this report.

Garret K February 11, 2013 at 09:50 PM
As a person suffering from symptoms of PTSD (due to violence AGAINST ME), I am mentally ill. I care about laws. I have committed no crimes. I care about right and wrong. I fought for 4 years through to hold the people who did what they did to me to finally hold them at least partially accountable in an effort to keep such people from dong what they did to me to others. I am mentally ill. I have a rifle. I have a permit to purchase a handgun and other firearms demanding a background check in my state. I had none of these until the day Obama announced his assault against rights I did much care about since I hadn't hunted since I was a kid. Please terminate your vitriolic stigmatization of "the mentally ill" and focus on "the violent". Thank you.
CJ February 13, 2013 at 08:43 PM
As a person who has investigated gun crimes, I can say first hand that MORE GUN LAWS WILL NOT SOLVE THE VIOLENCE PROBLEM. The current laws are hardly enforced so what will new laws do but harm law abiding citizens. This gun law is not about guns, violence or laws, it is about government control and that is scarier to me than all the guns in the USA.
Mark Shean February 15, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Lets turn the 'Bedrock' of the nation into criminals overnight! That is exactly what progressive democrats want to do. Molon Labe!!
Mark Shean February 15, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Who will be the state sanctioned theives that will kick in the doors of honest Americans should Dems get their way? I suggest the ones who draft the bill to confiscate our guns also should be the ones to come get them. Molon Labe!!
Troy trebesch February 16, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Troy Trebesch Looks like its time to leave Minnesota and take my corporation with me, I will not stay in a state that walks on our 2nd ammendment gun rights! What of the people that have hundreds or thousands of dollars in high cap mags and firearms that this would be ban will make illegal? Turn them over to the Gov for dismantling - bullshit! The ban will turn law abiding citizens into felons and the criminals that want to get them and break the law will still do it regardless, this is not the answer.

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