Gov. Walz won’t call special session on gun control, unlike Wisconsin’s governor

Gov. Tim Walz said Monday he will not call Minnesota lawmakers into a special session over gun control because the refusal of Republican senators to consider the issue would make it futile.

“At this point in time, I don’t think calling a special session would move us any further along,” Walz told reporters gathered in his state Capitol reception room. “But it’s our intent to continue to ask to come together around this.”

In making his decision, Walz took the opposite strategy from fellow first-term Democratic Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin. Evers on Monday said he was calling lawmakers in his state into a special session to consider two bills that would impose tougher gun restrictions.

Evers faces double the legislative opposition as Walz: Republicans control both chambers in Wisconsin, and only the Senate in Minnesota. 

In both states, one measure would require background checks on most gun sales. The other, known as “extreme risk” protective orders, would allow police to take guns from people deemed by a judge as threatening to themselves or others.

Protect Minnesota, one of the two leading gun control groups in the state, said on Twitter that it favors a special session on the two bills.

But Rev. Rolf Olson of Protect Minnesota said he would defer to Walz on how to handle GOP opposition.

“The issue here in Minnesota has not been Gov. Walz,” Olson said in an interview. “The issue at preventing those (bills) from being passed and saving lives is the Minnesota Senate.”

The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, one of the state’s largest pro-gun groups, said it remained opposed to the legislation.

“We’re happy to discuss bills to improve public safety, (but) we’re not interested in the governor’s push for divisive con control that have been proven to have no impact on violent crime,” said Rob Doar, the group’s vice president.

The issue led to a passionate debate during the 2019 legislative session. Gun control advocates held large rallies at the Capitol and got House Democrats to insert versions of both measures into an end-of-session omnibus bill.

But the legislation died when Senate Republicans were unwilling to hold hearings on the measures or agree to their inclusion in large, end-of-session bills.

“When somebody tells you who they are, believe them,” Walz said Monday. “These folks told me they’re not interested in talking about gun violence at this point in time. I’ll continue to make the case to the people of Minnesota that they need to be.”

Walz said Evers was “trying to do all he can to bring folks to the table” because Democrats control neither chamber of the state Legislature there.

Evers said Wisconsin Republicans who oppose gun restrictions were telling voters who support them to “go to hell.”

“How many times can you go against 80% of the people of the state of Wisconsin and essentially tell them to go to hell and expect to be re-elected?” Evers said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Evers can call lawmakers into a special session, which is now scheduled for Nov. 7, but he cannot force them to hold votes. Republican legislative leaders vowed Monday that they would not pass either bill.

“It’s easy to see how today’s action could just be the first attack on the Second Amendment,” said Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican who is also running for Congress. “The Senate will not be part of a drawn-out strategy to infringe on constitutional rights.”  

The Associated Press contributed to this story.