Round Two: Minnesota Gun Hearings

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Minneapolis Mayor Rybak testified about need for background checks. Click his photo to watch hearing videos.

Minneapolis Mayor Rybak testified about need for background checks. Click his photo to watch hearing videos.

The Minnesota State Legislature resumed a Democratic-led effort to grapple with gun safety and proposals aimed at reducing gun violence Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, held three hearings on Thursday and Friday. Video and highlights of the hearings are posted below. Proponents of gun safety measures remain hopeful that meaningful gun reforms will be approved by the 2013 Legislature. But prospects for the kind of measures proposed in the wake of the December school massacre in Connecticut seemed to weaken somewhat in the wake of constricted House hearings on gun legislation that were packed — some say intimidated — by gun owners, some of whom were carrying weapons.

(See: Can Minnesota Have a Fair Gun Debate at Gunpoint?)

One major retreat: The Senate hearings will not include testimony on proposals to ban military-style assault rifles or high-capacity ammunition magazines. Those proposals, considered key to the national gun-safety campaign, were taken off the table by Latz, who says he will concentrate only on bills that would require universal background checks before the sale or transfer of any gun could be completed.

“I think most people agree that universal background checks is the first place we should start,” Latz said in a press release this week. “We need to focus on what we can accomplish right now to make our state safer. The outright banning of guns is a conversation that is more suited on the federal level.”

Like President Obama, who called for universal background checks during a recent visit to Minneapolis, Latz said most Minnesotans support requiring background checks on all gun sales.

“From those that want to ban all guns to those that want the ability to defend themselves by any means possible, there is a lot of passion surrounding this issue,” he said. “As the Senate Judiciary Chair, it is my goal to find effective solutions with common ground. I believe both sides want a safer state. My intent is to have an open conversation about our current options. This isn’t a time to fan the flames, but there is an obvious need for action.”

Gun owners, however, fiercely oppose universal background checks and say they intend to bring a heavy presence to the Senate hearings. The Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Association, an NRA-allied lobbying group that has encouraged its members to attend the Senate hearings, says background checks are “the worst of the worst” proposals being considered to reduce gun violence, and that they would punish law-abiding gun owners and represent “a first step” towards requiring gun owners to register their guns with the government.

Stay on The UpTake for live-streaming coverage of the Senate gun hearings.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak testifies about gun violence and more videos from the hearing

The 40% no background check statistic Rybak used was later challenged in the hearing by a NRA spokesperson.

On demand video replay of the Thursday afternoon session:

On demand video replay of the Thursday evening session:

Heartbreaking stories from Minnesota mothers about gun violence:

On Demand video replay of the Friday session:

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