March 30, 2023 — Surrounded by activists, Democratic lawmakers and former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday Minnesota will pass gun control measures this year, despite some wavering from DFL senators.
Walz, who once earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association during his career in Congress, offered an impassioned plea for gun control, citing the latest mass shooting earlier this week in Nashville, where three teachers and three children were killed.
“We’ve been having this damn conversation too long,” Walz said.
The fate of the gun control measures is unclear in the 34-33 Senate, as a few greater Minnesota DFL senators — Rob Kupec of Moorhead and Grant Hauschild of Hermantown — have declined to publicly state their stance on the proposals. Gun rights lobbyists have focused their attention on the senators. Gun rights groups are running advertisements in their districts to encourage their constituents to confront them on gun control.
Earlier this session, Minnesota lawmakers introduced four gun control bills: a mandate for safe firearm storage; background checks for all private sales; a “red flag” law to seize guns from people deemed dangerous; and a requirement that gun owners promptly notify law enforcement if their firearms are stolen.
Two remain in play: expanded background checks and a red flag law.
Sen. Ron Latz, a St. Louis Park Democrat and chair of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about getting the gun control measures through the Senate’s slim majority.
Latz said lawmakers are pushing extended background checks and the red flag proposals because the data show they work.
“I don’t think we want to be in a position of biting off more than we can chew,” Latz said, explaining the slimmer gun agenda. Walz said the DFL will hold majorities for “some years,” asking for patience on the other bills.
Giffords, who joined Walz, is now a gun control advocate after she was shot in the head by a gunman who killed six people and injured 12 others at a constituent event in 2011.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, criticized Walz for his gun control remarks.
“Rather than an extreme all-or-nothing approach on guns, we can and should come together to protect lives with ideas that everyone supports, and that we know will work,” Johnson said in a statement.
Republicans have proposed $100 million for school safety improvements. “This isn’t the time to score political points and win elections, it’s time to do something that will actually save lives.”
Walz said Republican senators will have a political “day of reckoning” if they vote against the gun control laws, running down GOP opposition to free school lunches, abortion rights and rights for trans people: “You voted ‘no’ on food for children. You voted ‘no’ on protecting women’s rights to make their own choices. You voted to demonize our children for who they are and their identity. You vote ‘no’ on this one — you’re getting a pretty good record built up,” Walz said.
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