House Drops Most Background Checks For Gun Buyers

By Danielle Killey

Gun control backers have given up controversial proposals in an effort to pass some measures aimed at curbing gun violence in Minnesota.

The House Public Safety Committee chairman dropped a plan to expand background checks to virtually all gun sales that was set for a vote Tuesday evening. He said there is a new agreement that will include only checks for purchases at gun shows.

Chairman Michael Paymar of St. Paul said he and fellow Democratic Rep. Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center agreed to kill Paymar’s bill but include background checks for all gun show firearm sales in a new proposal they said will be ready later this week.

“Like any compromise, I think people will be disappointed on both sides,” Paymar said. But “we have an agreement the gun show loophole will be plugged,” which he called “a big step.”

Hilstrom’s plan, backed by the National Rifle Association, also would increase penalties for illegally possessing a firearm or buying weapons for those who cannot have them, known as straw purchases. It would add more to the existing background check system as well.

The lawmakers said the new bill needs to be ready for a committee hearing sometime this week to meet deadlines.

Paymar also lost a provision allowing law enforcement officials to deny gun permits to those who are a danger to themselves or others.

A Senate committee passed a bill last week that included expanded background checks.

Paymar’s original plan to do that drew significant criticism and likely would not have passed his House committee.

“I was prepared to actually lose the bill today,” Paymar said. Republicans and some Democrats on the committee had said they opposed the measure.

Paymar said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, urged the lawmakers to find some kind of solution.

“This is the best we could do,” Paymar said.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said he still is not satisfied with the apparent compromise announced Tuesday night.

“The only way we can put an end to this thing is to fight it all the way,” he said. He added that the gun show “loophole” is an intentional exclusion from some gun control provisions.

“We need to look at crime control versus gun control,” NRA spokesman Chris Rager said Tuesday.

Opponents have said the background checks and other increased controls threaten Second Amendment rights.

Paymar disagreed.

“I think this is a minor inconvenience for a civilized society,” he said earlier Tuesday.

Rural Democrats have said they would have trouble supporting significant gun control legislation, including background checks.

Paymar said this agreement hopefully will garner more support.

No proposals that remain on the table include the more contentious measures banning assault rifles or high-capacity magazines discussed in Paymar’s committee earlier in the legislative session.

Lawmakers talked over a number of proposals and heard hours of testimony during the first few months of the session before the overall gun control bill was introduced.

The House committee discussed Paymar’s proposal Tuesday morning and planned to return in the evening to further talk about and vote on the bill. Cornish warned that the break was to allow for “bullying” and “twisting arms.”

“They’re desperate to get something passed,” he said of Democrats.