ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota House Public Safety Committee held a hearing to review two proposed gun control bills.
One of the bills, HF 1669, mandates criminal background checks for firearm transfers, and the other, HF 1605, enables law enforcement and family members to petition a court to prohibit a person from possessing firearms if they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.
DFL Rep. Dave Pinto (D-St. Paul), the chief author of both bills, urged the committee to do something about this “crisis.”
“Members, we face a crisis, ” Pinto said. “In the year that these bills have been sitting and waiting a heating, well over 30,000 Americans, nearly 1300 children have died from gunshots, many more of them wounded. These are rates many times higher than other industrialized countries.”
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, a proponent of Pinto’s legislation, encouraged legislators to take “common-sense approaches” to gun violence.
“We have an epidemic of gun violence in this country,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. “We need to adopt common-sense approaches to address these issues.”
During the hearing, Pinto attempted to justify his bill expanding background checks by comparing it to airport security.
“I’d like members just to have us thinking about going to the airport, and there’s a security line at the airport, and there’s a screening to go through to make sure that when somebody gets on a plane, we’re sure that that person is safe to be on the plane,” Pinto said.
Pinto failed to note, however, that the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport(MSP) TSA screening failed 95% of security tests, according to a Fox News report
A few Minnesota gun owners were given a chance to speak on the issue as well.
Rob Doar, political director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, spoke to the committee to advocate for gun owners across the state. According to their website, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus is a “grassroots organization dedicated to protecting and advancing to right of citizens to keep and bear arms.”
Doar argued that Pinto’s bill expanding background checks is unconstitutional, highlighting statistics that show firearm homicides have actually dropped over the past two decades. According to data from Pew Research Center, the gun homicide rate has dropped by nearly half.
“While I understand that not everyone sees it that way, I want to try and appeal a little bit of logic,” Doar said. “We heard here that there is an epidemic of gun violence. I’d like to point out that from the 1990s our firearm homicide rate is lower than 50% of what it used to be. We’re moving in the right direction. At the same time, gun sales and permits to carry have skyrocketed.”
Another speaker, Daniel Ward of the African American Heritage Gun Club, aimed to bring a different perspective to the hearing. Ward urged committee members to think about the people who this bill, and others like it, will hurt the most.
“We as minorities and people of color have traditionally been marginalized,” Ward said. “We’ve been prohibited from being able to have just the basic right of being able to protect our homes and protect our families. Gun laws go all the way back to the early 1600s and law, after law, after law, after law, after law has been passed that has basically eroded away not only our rights, but everyone else’s rights. We are the ones that get affected the most.”
The Public Safety Committee voted to table both HF 1669 and HF 1605 by votes of 9-7 and 10-6.