Tag Archives: gun control

Ortman introduces Senate version of compromise gun bill

State Senator Julianne Ortman introduced the Senate version of the compromise gun control bill today.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ortman is one of 17 Republicans who have indicated support for the bill, while five DFL legislators have signed on as co-authors of the measure.

Provisions in the bill include:

  • requirements to more quickly send state data to the national background check database
  • expand the parameters which disqualify people convicted of violent crimes from owning a gun
  • increased penalties for illegal gun possession and “straw purchases” (where someone buys a gun on behalf of someone who is prohibited from owning a weapon)
  • making it a crime to falsely report a gun as stolen

Supporters of the bill include the National Rifle Association, the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, and the Minnesota Sheriffs Association.  Carver County Reps. Joe Hoppe and Ernie Leidiger are co-authors on the House version of the bill.

Read the full press release from Sen. Ortman’s office below:

 

 

 

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Leidiger, Hoppe back compromise gun control bill

Carver County State Representatives Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska) and Ernie Leidiger (R-Mayer) have signed on as co-authors of a compromise gun control bill, H.F. 1323, which contains only measures that have significant bipartisan support.  More controversial measures, such as universal background checks and bans on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, are not included in the bill.

Provisions in the bill, chief authored by Debra Hilstrom (D-Brooklyn Center) include:

  • requirements to more quickly send state data to the national background check database
  • expand the parameters which disqualify people convicted of violent crimes from owning a gun
  • increased penalties for illegal gun possession and “straw purchases” (where someone buys a gun on behalf of someone who is prohibited from owning a weapon)
  • making it a crime to falsely report a gun as stolen

73 House members (17 DFL, and 56 GOP) are sponsoring the bill, which also has the support of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association and the National Rifle Association.  That’s a majority of the House’s 134 members.

Despite the broad support, however, the bill is not without its critics.  House Public Safety Committee Chair Michael Paymar (D-St. Paul), who earlier introduced a bill that included universal background checks, has indicated he won’t give the new bill a committee hearing.  In the State Senate, meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee is poised to also move forward a bill containing universal background checks.  No Senate version of the Hilstrom bill has been introduced yet, although this bill would seem to fit the parameters of what Sen. Julianne Ortman was talking about when she discussed alternative legislation to the Senate bill (S.F. 235).

Resistance from the critical committee chairs in both houses may mean that supporters will be forced to engage in some parliamentary maneuvering to get this bill to the floor for a vote.  This bill clearly opens the fissures in the DFL party on this issue, as well as revealing a gap in the law enforcement community, as the police chiefs and officers have lined up behind bills with universal background checks. It should make for some interesting times at the Capitol over the next two months.

Ortman withdraws authorship of S.F. 235

State Senator Julianne Ortman has removed herself as an author on DFL State Senator Ron Latz’s S.F. 235 that would change the definition of “crimes of violence” to include additional domestic violence offenses as well as the illegal possession of a firearm, essentially increasing the penalties for illegal possession of a firearm and making it illegal for those convicted of those domestic violence crimes to own firearms.  Sources close to Ortman indicate that there were disagreements regarding how the bill would be handled in committee and on the Senate floor.

Ortman is expected to introduce her own bill with similar goals soon.

Legislative gun bills: sound and fury signifying little?

This week has been “gun week” at the Capitol, as the House Public Safety Committee has held hearings on a number of proposed bills that expected to be whittled down and consolidated into an omnibus gun violence reduction bill.  Much of the coverage of hearings thus far has focused on the occasionally heated words going back and forth over the issue and the various proposals.  Thus far, there have been 17 bills introduced in the House, and eight in the Senate (as of February 6):

gunbills

But which of these bills is likely to make the cut, and be approved by the Legislature?  Despite the DFL holding majorities in both houses, passage of any significant gun control legislation is far from a certainty.  Many rural DFL legislators hold positions that more closely align with the National Rifle Association than their metro colleagues.  Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk earned high marks from the NRA until last session, when he voted against the so-called “Castle Doctrine” expansion bill.  In the House, Iron Range DFL Rep. David Dill believes he has enough votes to block many of the above initiatives.  And, Governor Mark Dayton has been lukewarm at best about new gun regulations.

The final package of bills is likely, in fact, to be rather incremental — not the sort of “gun grab” that many gun proponents have been warning against.   What’s likely to be in there?  Here’s what I expect:

  • A form of the Goodwin/Rosenthal bills making it more difficult for violent felons to get their firearm rights restored.
  • Improved mental health screening as part of the background check process, although it may look quite different than the Schoen bill
  • The Latz/Lesch bill (also supported by Sen. Julianne Ortman) expanding the crime of violence definition and modifying criminal penalties for illegal firearm possession

Some other possibilities include the Johnson bill to criminalize false gun theft/loss reports and a modified version of the Simonson body armor bill that would instead increase penalties for those who commit crimes while wearing it.

However, the more controversial proposals — like the Hausman bills on assault weapons and large capacity magazine bans — likely don’t have the votes to make it out of the Legislature.  Even Paymar’s universal background check bill appears to be on thin ice from a votes perspective, despite the fact polling shows broad support for it.

That said, all of the more likely proposals are — despite a lower profile — bills that can make a real impact on gun violence.  Sometimes moderation and incrementalism pays off.

[Featured image is State Rep. Tony Cornish’s “Gun Week” fashion statement, including AK-47 lapel pin, from Pat Kessler’s Twitter stream.]

Legislative happenings: Ortman backs gun bill; Hoppe late in filing campaign finance reports again

A couple of notes on some happenings at the State Capitol:

  • State Senator Julianne Ortman has signed on as an author on S.F. 235, which is being carried by Democratic State Sen. Ron Latz.  The bill would change the definition of “crimes of violence” to include additional domestic violence offenses as well as the illegal possession of a firearm, essentially increasing the penalties for illegal possession of a firearm and making it illegal for those convicted of those domestic violence crimes to own firearms.  Additionally, the bill equalizes penalties for those who aid and abet illegal firearm possession with those who possess the weapon. Another change would subject juveniles to being charged as an adult the second time they are caught in illegal possession of a firearm.  Finally, the bill bans possession of ammunition by those who are legally prohibited from owning a weapon and makes some changes that makes it harder for the mentally ill to possess firearms.  The bill is backed by the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.
  • Rep. Joe Hoppe

    Rep. Joe Hoppe

    State Representative Joe Hoppe has completed the trifecta for 2012, but this isn’t an accomplishment to be lauded.  Hoppe’s year-end campaign finance report, due January 31, is late.  This means that Hoppe, currently serving his sixth term in the House, missed the filing deadlines for all three of his 2012 campaign finance reports.  His pre-primary report, due July 30, was filed on August 3 and his pre-general election report, due October 29, was filed on November 15.  Certainly, a veteran legislator like Hoppe should know better.

And There’s Nothing To Be Done

Our nation finds itself in the midst of two significant discussions right now.  The first is about how to resolve the so-called “fiscal cliff”, the wholly manufactured end-of-the-year crisis created by the utter inability of our elected officials in Washington to get the basics of their job completed in a reasonably competent manner.  The second is about what to do in response to the spate of mass shootings that have taken place in the second half of this year, culminating in the slaughter of 26 in Newtown, Conn. a couple of weeks ago.

What strikes me about both conversations is that one side of the aisle has shown a tendency to throw out ideas they don’t like solely on the basis that such ideas don’t solve the entire problem.  Take, for instance, Mark Thiessen’s column in today’s Washington Post.  Thiessen argues that since President Obama’s proposed tax increase on high-income Americans won’t close the deficit completely that we shouldn’t do it.  Or, better yet, we should raise taxes on everybody just to teach them a lesson!

Sorry, taxing the rich won’t solve our problems — that’s nothing but fiscal snake oil the president has been selling. He is demanding $1.3 trillion in higher taxes on the wealthy over 10 years. Imagine he got it. We are adding nearly that much to the national debt every single year. Taxing the rich would not put even a minor dent in our debt. It would pay for less than three weeks of federal spending every year. The only way to pay for the current expansion of government is to raise taxes on the middle class.

So let’s do it.

But such arguments have also found a home in the debate about whether or not there should be additional gun control measures should be enacted following Newtown.  Here’s an example of such an argument from the National Review’s Rich Lowry:

How many guns are in the United States? The answer is 280 million. In a country with that many guns, how is gun control possibly going to succeed? If you ban a small subset of new guns for sale, what are you going to do about the rest? Let’s say you succeed beyond anything that is remotely possible. Let’s say you somehow stop the new sale of guns altogether and somehow decommission half of existing guns. What are you going to do with the other 140 million guns?

There are numerous problems with such specious lines of argument.  The first, and most obvious one, is that proponents of such ideas are not and have not suggested that these solutions — be it taxing the rich or banning high-capacity magazines — are complete solutions to the problem.

But these arguments are even more dishonest in another way.  As we’ve discussed before, these sorts of arguments are just other ways of framing the debate to protect entrenched interests at the expense of everyone else.  Thiessen and conservatives may be opposed to Obama’s tax increase on the wealthy, but their proposals are equally (or even more) inadequate in addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges.

For instance, over the last month, Speaker of the House John Boehner has included in his proposals provisions that would change the way inflation benefits are calculated for Social Security recipients and he also proposed increasing the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.  Combined, these two proposals would reduce the deficit over the next decade by less than Obama’s tax increase on the wealthy.  And, of course, Boehner’s proposals would have very real consequences for the low- and middle-income people impacted by them.  The Social Security change alone would decrease payouts to recipients by 0.3% per year.  After a decade, recipients would have lost 3% of their payouts.  That’s significant, given that 40% of retirees have 90% or more of their income from the program.

Meanwhile, those who oppose any additional gun control measures have thrown nearly anything and everything out to bolster their case.  Just look at the National Rifle Association.  In the 1990s, they called federal law enforcement officers “jack-booted thugs”.  Today, they’re calling for the federal government to fund armed guards in every school in the country.  And, they call for a database of the mentally ill without calling for a database of gun owners to cross-reference it against.  Putting the Second Amendment ahead of the rest, I suppose.

Closer to home, you have state representatives who ignore facts that don’t support their frame of reference.  The notion that the potential presence of an armed individual deters such mass attacks is bogus, even if you ignore the Columbine example.  In recent years, we’ve seen shootings on an Army base and in the state with the least restrictive concealed-carry laws in the nation and on a college campus that had its own police department and SWAT team.  And, just today, inside a police station.

The challenges we face are far too large to be dragged down by reasoning that is so small.  We can have an informed and reasonable debate and talk about a wide variety of solutions without engaging in debate that is intellectually dishonest to its core.  We should expect better of all of our elected representatives.  We may not be able to solve every problem completely, but some progress is better than none.  So let’s get on with it, already.

(Image above is Francisco de Goya’s And There’s Nothing To Be Done, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which depicts scenes from the Spanish War of Independence.)

Gun control options are many but solutions are hard to come by

The elementary school massacre in Newton, Conn. Friday is apparently going to prompt actual Congressional debate over potential new gun control measures.  Here’s a look at some of the options you might hear about in the coming weeks, with some pros and cons of each:

  • Firearm registration:  Would require users to register all of their guns with the state.  Would facilitate tracking of guns used in crime, as well as discourage ownership of prohibited weaponry.  Would be relatively easy to avoid, however, and viewed as a serious abridgment of Second Amendment rights.
  • Owner licensing and training:  Would require gun owners and purchasers to be licensed by the state.  Most proposals tie such licensing to requirements for successful completion of a gun safety course including passing a proficiency exam.  Process would likely create additional expense for prospective gun owners.
  • Liability insurance: Would require gun owners to purchase liability insurance that would cover any damages resulting from illegal usage of the weapon.  Presumably, this would discourage the ownership of semi-automatic weapons because insurance rates would be higher.  Would make it much harder for lower-income folks to own firearms.
  • Additional screening:  Would subject current or prospective gun owners to more intensive screening of their criminal and mental health background.  Would likely prevent more people with mental health problems from obtaining weapons, but will never be 100% successful.  Also, could be considered a significant invasion of privacy depending on what steps are involved.
  • Limits on magazine size:  The Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle used by the Connecticut shooter had a detachable magazine that carried 30 rounds.  Some have called for the limit to be as low as six rounds, but most proposals place the number at 10 or 12 rounds as the maximum.  Significant numbers of these large magazines still exist today (and would continue to after a ban), and one could expect a robust black market to develop.
  • Ban on detachable magazines:  Some have called for a ban on detachable magazines altogether, which would require rounds to be loaded by hand instead of the quick change process facilitated by the detachable magazine.  Similar black market issues would exist with this option.
  • Other limits on ammunition sales:  Various options could be in play here, such as limits on the amount or type of ammunition that could be purchased.
  • Bans on certain types of weapons:  Congressional Democrats have already indicated that they will be looking to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban which expired in 2004 — this legislation primarily impacted semi-automatic rifles with certain military features.  Could be somewhat effective — for instance, the AR-15 used by the Aurora, Colo. movie theater shooter would have been banned by the law had it still been in place.  However, there were legal weapons available that provided essentially the same function.  As with some of the other options, a robust black market would likely exist, unless the U.S. were to undertake an effort like Australia did in the mid-1990s, spending millions to buyback banned weapons.

The key thing to note about all of these options is that there’s no provision here that’s going to be a magic wand.  Guns are and always will be a part of American culture.  Mainstream debate (on both sides of the political aisle) reflect the fact that no one wants to take away the rights of law-abiding Americans to have a firearm for self-defense and hunting.  To reduce the number of tragedies like Newtown or Aurora or Columbine or Virginia Tech is going to require changes across a number of areas of American life — not just or not even primarily changes in gun laws.  It has to reflect that our system for treating folks with mental illness isn’t working.  It has to reflect that there are some things very wrong with our culture.  Bob Costas may have used the wrong platform to talk about it, but we need to rethink our love affair with firearms and begin to treat them with the respect that they deserve.  Ads like this don’t help the process along:

Source:  Bushmaster corporation website

Source: Bushmaster corporation website

Featured image courtesy of the Newtown Bee.


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