Legislative Notebook: Minnesota Not Alone In Looking At State Gun Laws

By Don Davis

Minnesota legislators are considering gun-related laws at the same time lawmakers in other states are walking similar paths.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed legislation fortifying the state’s existing assault weapon ban and limiting size of ammunition magazines allowed in guns. The new law also requires that the state be notified of potentially dangerous behavior by mentally ill New Yorkers.

New York legislative control is split between Democrats and Republicans, yet they agreed on strengthening laws that already are tougher than in Minnesota.

Proposals in Minnesota to ban assault weapons and large clips of bullets have questionable futures because Democrats who offered them cannot count on rural Democratic support. But there is more support to keep guns away from potentially dangerous people.

Outside the New Jersey Capitol last week, about 1,000 gun-rights activists protested debate to further restrict guns in that state.

After the protest, legislative Democrats announced they would take up 24 bills designed to control gun violence. They could receive Assembly votes next week.

In California, law enforcement officials and gun-safety advocates announced a package of bills that would close loopholes in existing gun laws and attempt to keep guns away from dangerous people. The package also would increase gun education requirements.

In Denver, a Colorado House committee took much of Tuesday debating gun legislation to increase gun-buyer background checks and limit how many bullets can be in clips.

In Montana, the state Sheriff’s and Peace Officers’ Association prepared a letter explaining they oppose any laws that erodes gun-ownership rights.

“The MSPOA feels that any legislation that takes away constitutional protections, including gun rights, from law-abiding citizens will not alleviate or eliminate the threat from violent or mentally ill individuals,” the letter says. “In fact, it would expose our law-abiding neighbors to violence with fewer resources to counter them with.”

The law enforcement group says no gun-control bills have been introduced in the Montana Legislature they oppose, but they are concerned some could be.

The Web site Business Insider reports that one factor making passing gun restrictions difficult is that nearly 100,000 people work in the gun industry.

While states are looking at gun bills, so are Congress and President Barack Obama.

Debate is the rule

Republicans fought nearly 10 hours to change rules proposed by Democrats about how the House operates.

But Democrats won out, creating a requirement that any amendments be filed 24 hours before the chamber debates a bill. The change passed on a 69-59 vote early Tuesday.

Republicans said that requirement stifles their ability to attempt to change bills.

Democrats said the new deadline gives the public a better chance to learn about amendments. Old rules allowed amendments to be introduced on the spur of the moment, which Democrats said created legislation being written in the dark of night.

“Too often, we’ve made mistakes as a result of doing amendments late in the night and on the fly, without preparation,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul.

Republican countered with charges that the change gives majority Democrats more power.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said the need for amendments sometimes is not known until legislators begin debating a bill. He said the rule will restrict and silence members.

Grants available

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, suggests that colleges, universities and technical schools apply for a new grant program designed to help increase graduation rates for at-risk students.

The College Success grant will provide up to $300,000 in grants. They are to help students from low-income homes and those with other obstacles to completing college.

“The goal of the College Success grant is to help students who enroll in college, stay in college until they graduate,” Stumpf said. “These grants help students from low income backgrounds, and those who are first in the family to attend college receive the additional support they need to stay in college and complete their studies.”