Lawmakers clash over background checks for firearm transfers

- Minnesota lawmakers have been wrestling with the controversial topic of universal background checks on all gun purchases. It's a hot topic for not just victims of crime, but second amendment advocates who believe such laws infringe on their constitutional rights.

The debate is over a bill that would require a background check on all firearm transfers. The checks must be conducted by a federally licensed dealer. They would not apply to immediate families transferring firearms between themselves.

But the bill won’t get passed, at least not this year.

There was no hearing in the House, where Rep. Tony Cornish made it very clear at the start of the session he would not take on any gun bills. On the Senate side, Sen. Ron Latz is trying to build groundswell to pass the bill next year after the elections.

Supporters argue the law is needed.

"The woman who murdered Shelly by shooting her four times purchased the gun used for 60 dollars at a gun show with no background check required,” Rachel Joseph, who’s aunt was murdered in a Hennepin County courthouse, said at a Senate hearing on closing the gaps in gun purchases that require background checks Tuesday.

But, second amendment advocates say the information collected on background check forms is all about universal registration.

"A permanent federal record of your name, address, city, state, zip, place of birth date of birth, height, weight, gender and the make, model and serial number of  the gun,” Andrew Rothman, a member of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, said. “This is a permanent federal record.  But it's not registration.  I don't buy it.  That is registration." 

Opponents also believe the proposed law won’t work.

Cg: kevin vick/firearms trainer
"It doesn't help reduce gun homicides,” Kevin Vick, a firearms trainer, said.” It's merely political theater designed to convince voters that something, anything, is being done to reduce gun crime."

But at least one senator doesn't buy the arguments.

"What are you really afraid of?” Sen. Barb Goodwin (D-Columbia Heights) said. “If you're going to get guns anyway what are you really afraid of?"

There was emotional testimony on both sides. In the end, Latz says this bill is not going to solve all problems. But, he says it seems like a concrete step forward that he thinks the state ought to take.

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