Senate panel OKs gun bill with background checks

by Lindsey Seavert,  |  published on March 16, 2013

A Senate panel has passed a bill that would impose universal background checks on all gun sales. It’s the first legislative hurdle towards more restrictive gun laws, but that measure has many obstacles to tackle before becoming Minnesota low.

Majority Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday night endorsed the legislation on a 5-3 party-line vote.

Sen. Ron Latz, a St. Louis Park Democrat, says his bill is a compromise with competing legislation. The legislation would boost information in state’s background checks, strengthen penalties for those who sell to people who don’t meet the standards, and give county attorneys more tools to track down illegal gun owners. It contains many of the provisions in an alternate gun bill backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

“If we really are serious about reducing gun violence in our state, this is the course, Latz’s course, of universal backgrounds, backgrounds required on all transactions of handguns is the way to do that,” said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, who said the bill, Senate File 458, is what Minnesotans want.

A separate NRA-backed bill would not broadly expand background checks. Many in the crowd Thursday night came to support the alternative bill drafted by Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen. Ortman proposes beefing up background checks to better filter red flags when it comes to criminals and mentally ill people.

“This Latz bill will do nothing to prevent crime, nothing t.o prevent violence. What it will do is impose additional penalities, restrictions and infringements on the law abiding who aren’t the problem anyway,” said Andrew Rothman, vice president for the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance.

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