The deadly school shooting in Florida has reignited debate over gun control laws but local state lawmakers remain wary of entering the fray.
There are at least five bills currently on file in the Minnesota legislature this session relating to firearms or the Second Amendment.
The bills include making “slide-fire” or “bump” stocks illegal and classifying them as “trigger activators.” Activators increase the rate that a gun’s trigger can be pulled thus increasing a firearm’s rate of fire.
Asked if he supported or opposed that bill and four others, state Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, responded, “As with any other bill, I will weigh the pros and cons and vote in the best interests of Fillmore and Houston counties.”
The other pending bills include one that would introduce universal background checks for gun sales between private parties and one that would allow law enforcement and family members to ask a court to ban a person from possessing firearms if they pose a threat.
State Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, also declined to say if he would support any of the pending bills, and questioned whether new regulations would have stopped the Florida shooting.
“It is difficult to determine whether further regulations would have any significant benefit considering the red flags that appear to have been missed in the Parkland case and other shootings,” he said.
Miller, while noting that violent crime was at a 50-year low, did say there was “room for improvement” on the issue of gun violence.
“First and foremost, we need better enforcement of current laws and regulations to make sure we keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illnesses, felons, and domestic abusers,” he said. “Too many people are tragically slipping through the cracks.”
While he was unwilling to take a position on any of the pending bills in Minnesota, Miller said he was willing to discuss some changes supported by gun control advocates.
“There is also room for a discussion about compromises like longer waiting periods, or gun violence restraining orders that permit family members to seek a court order temporarily taking away the guns of a troubled individual,” he said. “I would not be surprised to see this debate arise this session.”
Davids said Minnesota already had taken steps toward reducing tragedies like the Florida mass shooting.
“We’ve taken steps aimed at preventing similar tragedies including investments in school safety and mental health programs, along with changes to our gun laws to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers,” he said.
The pending bills in Minnesota related to guns are not all coming from the gun control side of the debate. There’s also a proposed Minnesota “stand your ground” bill introduced by Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia. The bill has passed out of committee and would allow lethal force to be used to stop felonies, regardless of whether a person is in their home or not.
Davids is running for re-election this fall, where he’ll face the winner of the DFL primary between Spring Grove’s Thomas Trehus and Greenleafton’s Jordan Fontenello.
Trehus said he would support universal background checks but when asked about the other pending bills said he would need “further consultation with constituents and local law enforcement” before taking a position.
Fontenello said that while he owned two shotguns and a .22 rifle he would support “electronic background-check system that is the same throughout all jurisdictions.” He also said he was in favor of putting limitations on the types of weapons available to the public.
“Shotguns, hunting rifles, OK,” Fontenello said. “The public has no need for handguns and assault weapons of any kind.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Mankato, whose congressional district includes Houston County and is running for governor, put out a statement Tuesday saying he now supported a ban on assault-weapons in Minnesota. He also said he’d support a bump-stock ban and said that he would no longer take any donations from the NRA. Last year, Walz donated all of the contribution he had received from the NRA to a veteran’s charity.