State lawmakers hold hearing on fixing gun laws in Minnesota while rally calls for new protections

It was a packed house for Thursday's meeting, with people on both sides of the issue weighing in. (FOX 9)

The stage is being set at the state capitol for vastly different approaches to curbing gun violence. A hearing Thursday in St. Paul and another to follow next month in Hibbing, Minnesota show a Republican focus on fixing gun laws while Democrats push to add new ones.

Thursday, there was a big crowd on hand for the controversial subject.

"This meeting is to simply understand Minnesota’s existing laws," said Republican Senator Warren Limmer.

For three hours, the Senate hearing was packed with many who support tighter laws and some who oppose them. That set the stage for gun law battles to come this next session.

The first full hour consisted of lawmakers going through existing laws and who is legally barred from owning guns.

"Our criminal justice system apparently is sending a message to criminals in our state that we are not serious about felony-level crimes involving firearms," said Senator Dan Hall.

Minnesota Senators discuss changing gun laws in the state to make them more effective. (FOX 9)

The point of the Republican-controlled judiciary committee is to support bills to better enforce the laws we have rather than add more restrictions.

"I think we need support for our law enforcement, for the laws currently on the books, how are we enforcing those," remarked Senator Mark Johnson, a Republican.

"Background checks and red flag laws will help shore up our gun laws and are proven to save lives," argued Bob Mokos of the Everytown Survivor Network.

Members of the rally, pushing for new gun laws, speak outside the meeting. (FOX 9)

Before the hearing, a rally by gun law advocates pushed for two bills that have languished at the capitol for several years including background checks on private sales and emergency protection orders.

"It seems to me this is more political window dressing than it is a serious attempt to address gun violence in Minnesota," said Democratic Senator Ron Latz.

Republicans believe the focus should be fixing the laws we already have.

"Despite what’s being heard outside in the foyer, this is not window dressing," said Limmer.