By Don Davis
So-called assault weapons are nothing more than fancy hunting rifles, gun supporters told a Minnesota House committee today.
A federal ban on the guns that expired in 2004 did not work, Chris Rager of the National Rifle Association told the House public safety committee. “This firearms ban, it’s a failed policy.”
But John Egelhof of Bemidji, a former FBI agent, said the semi-automatic rifles being disused should be banned for all but military, police and competitive shooters.
“The only real use with these tools is to kill our fellow citizens,” said Egelhof, who was the first FBI agent at the 2005 Red Lake school shooting.
He said that the death toll in that shooting, seven in the school besides the shooter and two others elsewhere in Red Lake, would have been much greater if an assault weapon had been used.
The comments came during the second of at least five sessions Public Safety Chairman Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Louis, plans on bills written to curb gun violence.
The hearings continue Thursday morning and night, with committee votes not expected until late this month. At least a half dozen other gun-related bills still are to be debated by the public safety panel.
All three meetings have packed the committee room with a couple hundred spectators, mostly gun rights supporters, and filled overflow rooms where people could watch the proceedings on television monitors.
Today’s hearing, like two on Tuesday, produced no apparent agreement on a bill Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, offered to ban assault weapons.
“It was really painful listing to your testimony,” Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, told Egelhof.
Cornish, a long-time law enforcement officer, said AR-15 rifles that are among those targeted in the bill are some of the most popular hunting guns in the country. He said society would be “neutered” if gun-control advocates succeed in removing guns.
The lawmaker said the Red Lake shooter could have been stopped had there been someone in the school with a gun.