When lawmakers in New York rammed through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s draconian gun bill in the dead of night last month, the message they were sending to gun control advocates around the nation was clear: this is how you do it.
One will recall Democratic Rep. Jeffrey Klein’s comments following the passage of the bill, “It’s about a safe society … today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what’s right.”
See, New York lawmakers were keenly aware that the battle over gun control is a war being fought on two fronts: the federal level and the state level.
Given this fact, they reasoned, why wait for the Obama administration and a politically fractured Congress to usher in sweeping reform when we can do it through our own state legislature?
On the heels of the President’s address at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Special Operations Center, it appears that Gopher State lawmakers are angling to follow in the footsteps of New York.
Starting today, the Minnesota Legislature will begin hearing public testimony on what’s been referred to as the ‘Gun Violence Prevention Act,’ a comprehensive package of bills that include a ban on “assault” weapons,’ state registration for existing “assault” weapons, and a ban on high capacity magazines, among others.
Here is a list, courtesy of Patch.com:
• H. F. 237, A bill modifying provisions related to the transfer of pistols and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons, and to eligibility to possess a firearm;
• H. F. 238, A bill establishing equal penalties for offenders who unlawfully possess firearms on school property;
• H. F. 239, A bill establishing equal penalties for persons who possess guns on private property after being ordered to leave the premises;
• H. F. 240, A bill improving mental health screening for persons applying for firearms permits;
• H. F. 241, A bill establishing a crime for manufacturing, transferring, or possessing certain assault weapons and providing for the disposal or registration of existing assault weapons;
• H. F. 242, A bill establishing a crime for manufacturing, transferring, or possessing large-capacity magazines;
• H. F. 243, A bill establishing a crime for manufacturing, transferring, or possessing large-capacity magazines;
• H. F. 244, A bill making it a crime to falsely report the loss or theft of a firearm and expanding the crime of transferring certain firearms to an ineligible person.
House Speaker Paul Thissen talked about the package of measures at a press conference last week, expressing optimism that his peers would find common ground on gun control.
“I think there are actually going to be areas where we’re going to get some broad consensus around things we can do that’ll make a difference to keep our public places more safe and to deal with the issues of gun violence,” Thissen said.
Since Democrats control the state Legislature, many gun control proponents believe the time is now for reform. However, unlike New York, which had the full weight of Gov. Cuomo behind the legislation, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton – also a Democrat – has not explicitly endorsed the Gun Violence Prevention Act.
In fact, following the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Gov. Dayton spoke up for gun rights, telling the Star Tribune that his “reading of the Constitution is that it provides a complete permission for any law-abiding citizen to possess firearms, whichever ones he or she chooses, and the ammunition to go with that.”
So, from the looks of things, the passage of new gun control laws is not entirely inevitable in Minnesota, say as it was in New York.
All that said there is room for improvement, particularly with respect to reporting and communication between the courts and law enforcement with respect the mental health records of potentially dangerous individuals.
One can argue that this is where all the attention and resources should be directed, at the broken mental health care system. As the CBS video below points out, state officials have incomplete records for 168,000 residents, which raises the question, how many of those individuals are mentally ill?