Gun violence opponents fill 3 floors of Minnesota Capitol in push for 4 bills

Wearing bright orange t-shirts, the anti-gun violence alliance called Protect Minnesota flooded all three floors of the State Capitol on Thursday to push for new gun safety laws this session. 

Protect Minnesota is calling on lawmakers to pass a bill introduced Thursday that would allow the state to collect gun ownership data for public health research. Another bill would put $100,000 into a pilot program aimed at reducing the trauma on people impacted by gun violence, including suicides and homicides. The group is also backing two bills that were killed by deadlines last session, but reintroduced this week:

HF 1669 would require criminal background checks for all gun sales and transfers.

HF 1605 would allow law enforcement and family members to obtain court-issued protective orders to ban people from possessing guns if they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

"The background checks will detect if someone has a criminally violent history,” said Sen. Ron Latz, author of the universal background checks bill in the Senate. “It will detect if they've got particular kind of severe illnesses."   

Protect Minnesota planned this rally months ago, but the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida turned this into an urgent call for action.

"The time for sensible gun laws has come,” said Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, executive director of Protect Minnesota. “Now!”

But Second Amendment advocates argue universal background checks don't solve the problem of mass shootings.

"In the most recent incidents all of the mass shooters have passed background checks so that isn't a measure that's going to be effective in reducing mass shootings,” said Rob Doar of the Gun Owners Caucus.

But a growing number of activists want change. Mothers in red packed the Capitol earlier this week confronting lawmakers, and now the sea of orange in a technicolor crisis seeking black and white answers.

"We are not stopping until thoughts are replaced with action and prayers are replaced with laws,” one speaker said at Thursday’s rally.