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Gun maker says bill goes too far: Legislator's plan would 'decimate machining'

Garrett Streitz puts together the upper assembly of an AR-15 rifle at Alex Pro Firearms in Carlos Tuesday. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)1 / 3
Patches on the wall at Alex Pro Firearms show the law enforcement agencies that the company has supplied weapons to. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)2 / 3
Garrett Streitz, co-owner of Alex Pro Firearms in Carlos, holds a .450 Bushmaster rifle that the company makes. He explained that the rifle is legal in several states for deer hunting. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)3 / 3

Gun safety legislation introduced at the Minnesota Legislature would not only take away Second Amendment rights, it would drive gun shops out of business.

That's according to Garrett Streitz, co-owner and sales representative at Alex Pro Firearms near Carlos Corners north of Alexandria. Since its start four years ago, the company has quickly grown from a small gun shop to a mid-level manufacturer, making more than 6,000 rifles a year. But that could change if some of the more restrictive legislative proposals are enacted.

"We would just pack up our bags and move to another state that wants us there," Streitz said.

The Echo Press interviewed Streitz to get his reaction to a bill introduced by state Rep. Linda Slocum, DFL-Richfield, that would expand the definition of an assault weapon.

Among other restrictions, the bill would ban private gun sales and the transfer of firearms between family members or through inheritance; make possessing silencers and many "large capacity" magazines — which hold more than 10 rounds — a felony; require all ammunition to be purchased from a licensed dealer, and require a record of all sales for three years and make it illegal for people who owe court-ordered child support to own firearms.

Streitz thinks the bill goes too far.

"Do they have any idea of how many manufacturers are making gun parts in Minnesota?" he

said. "This would just decimate the machining world in the state of Minnesota."

Although Slocum's bill is being decried by opponents as gun-control Armageddon, Slocum, who has between working on the bill since September, stands by it. "It's a big issue, it's a deadly issue, and let the people decide," she said in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

When asked what drove her to write a bill this extensive, Slocum said, "I think anyone that wants to buy a gun should be physically present at an active-shooter drill in a school. They all do 'em. You see these little kids doing an active-shooter drill, OK, and it's paralyzing. I'm concerned we're getting blase about it. Oh, it's just life today. Well, it doesn't have to be life today."

Streitz questioned how such a bill could be regulated.

"How would you regulate ammunition sales, transfer of firearms and get rid of millions of semi-automatic firearms in Minnesota?" he asked. "The Second Amendment is not a state issue; it's a federal right."

Parents, children and God

A better approach to gun safety, said Streitz, is to get parents and schools more involved in children's lives to recognize potential problems before they escalate into violence.

"What happened to God in school?" Stretiz said, adding that Alex Pro Firearms is a religious-based company. "An AR-15 rifle is an inanimate object. It doesn't do anything on its own. It all starts in the heart of the person who is shooting the gun."

Last month's school shooting in Parkland, Florida, could have been avoided with better communication among law enforcement agencies and if the FBI would have acted on tips it received about the shooter, Streitz said.

"If the FBI had done its job, we wouldn't have seen this last school shooting," Streitz said.

Listening to the debate over school safety is frustrating, Streitz said, because guns are portrayed as the enemy.

"We are building guns so people can have fun and go with their family and shoot coyotes and shoot targets and shoot deer — not people," he said. "And the number one goal for guns is so you can defend yourself in your home."

The business also counts law enforcement agencies among its customers. In 2016, Alex Pro Firearms donated $8,000 worth of weapons to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

AR-15s

When asked about misconceptions people may have about guns, Stretiz said people don't fully understand what an AR-15 is. It's not a fully automatic rifle. In fact, it's not even an assault rifle. The "AR" in AR-15 stands for the name of the company that first invented the rifle, ArmaLite Rifle.

Also, in order for a firearm to be considered an assault rifle, it needs to have the capability of switching between semi-automatic and automatic settings. Civilian AR-15s only have the semi-automatic setting.

Alex Pro Firearms doesn't make "bump stocks'' — which can increase a gun's rate of fire — and bump stocks are illegal in the state of Minnesota.

Streitz added that Alex Pro Firearms makes fully automatic firearms but they are only for police and the military — not the general public.

"The AR-15 is the number one selling sporting rifle in the U.S.," he said. "It's the most accurate and reliable firearm out there. It's a gun that you can hand down to your children and your children's children because of the reliability of it."

Stretiz said he believes that even if guns were completely eliminated, it wouldn't solve the underlying problems of violent behavior.

"People who want to murder are still going to murder with whatever they have — a rock, a knife, a bow," he said. "Murder is born inside the person, not in the gun."

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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