ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Minnesota first lady Gwen Walz challenged Republican senators who are blocking gun control legislation Wednesday and said the lawmakers lack common sense about the issue.
Walz was one of several speakers at a Moms Demand Action rally at the state Capitol. The first lady led a few hundred attendees in chants supporting tougher gun restrictions.
The DFL-sponsored bills require background checks on all gun sales and allow police to seize guns from people that judges decide pose a threat. They’ve gotten two committee hearings in the House but Republicans say they will not hold hearings in the Senate.
“There are seven senators sitting in seats where Tim Walz won. They are Republicans, and we are coming,” Gwen Walz told the crowd of activists, referencing her husband’s 2018 election victory. “Lead, or get out of the way!”
In fact, Republicans hold 10 state Senate seats in districts that Walz carried last fall, according to a FOX 9 analysis of election records. Five of the seats are in the Metro. The rest are in Greater Minnesota.
Senate Judiciary committee chairman Warren Limmer said his panel would not hold a hearing on either bill this year.
Limmer’s district in the northwest Metro was among those where Walz beat Republican Jeff Johnson last fall, but the veteran lawmaker appeared unmoved by the first lady’s challenge.
“I won in my district two years too, at a 20 percent margin. Bring it on,” said Limmer, R-Maple Grove. “I’ve been threatened by the best of them, and it really doesn’t bother me.”
Of the 10 GOP-held Senate districts that Walz carried, the governor won by the widest margin in a west Metro district represented by state Sen. Paul Anderson.
Anderson has supported legislation to expand background checks in the past, but said both of this year’s measures go too far.
“They’re not going to pass the Senate,” said Anderson, R-Plymouth. “We need to work on solutions and not just something that we don’t even know can pass off the House floor yet, let alone have support in the Senate.”
The DFL-sponsored gun bills have created a sea of controversy this session. Supporters say they are a modest step that will make Minnesotans safer, while opponents have raised constitutional and logistical questions about them.
The House Public Safety and Judiciary committees have approved both bills. They have at least one more committee stop before getting to the House floor.
Supporters of the legislation said the House was listening to voters who put Democrats in charge of the chamber this year. Republicans have a 35-32 advantage in the Senate, which wasn’t up for reelection in 2018 but will be in 2020.
“Sen. (Paul) Gazelka, the majority leader, has kind of stuck his feet in cement over this issue,” said state Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park and the lead author of the Senate gun bills. “But he should remember that if the Senate had been up for election last November, he would not be in control right now.”
Gwen Walz predicted that there were enough votes in the Senate to pass the legislation. She didn’t elaborate on which Republican senators would vote for the bills.
“Do you mean to tell me the Senate is going to stand in the way of democracy?” she said. “Unacceptable!”