ST. PAUL — A key state senator says he wants to hold a hearing to discuss gun policy, but it's not the hearing gun control advocates have pressed him for.
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, on Thursday, Sept. 5, said he hopes to hold an informational meeting to bring lawmakers and reform advocates up to speed on existing Minnesota gun laws.
Limmer chairs the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee and is a critical gatekeeper in deciding which bills get a hearing and which don't. And he, along with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, has been skeptical of the prospects of two gun-control measures that passed in the Minnesota House but didn't get a hearing in the Senate.
The move to review existing gun laws comes after a series of deadly shootings across the country this summer and after Gov. Tim Walz and Democrats in the Legislature called on Senate Republicans to take up the bills.
“I think the public has been kind of whipped into a froth and for some reason, they think we have no gun laws,” Limmer told Forum News Service. “I think it’s important to have some type of hearing where we’re reviewing the laws that we already have."
No date has been set for the meeting, Limmer said. He has not taken off the table the possibility of holding a hearing on proposals that would require universal background checks at the time of transfer of a firearm or allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others. However, he said he remains skeptical about how effective those bills would be in deterring mass shootings.
"Is one more law written in the law book really going to stop the behavior of a person who’s bent on criminal activity?" Limmer said. "I’m of the mind that if we could write a law that stops all violence and mental illness we would have found that magic law a long time ago."
Democrats said they were glad Limmer was considering a hearing but raised concerns about senators stalling on the proposals.
"Any attention that can be brought to that issue is really good and is needed," Rep. Dave Pinto, D-St. Paul, said. "We do need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and the existing laws are not sufficient."
Pinto sponsored a bill this year that would require background checks at the point of transfer of a pistol or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon. Exceptions would be made for firearm transfers to an immediate family member, while hunting, at a shooting competition or at a gun range.
That measure and a so-called "red flag" proposal passed the House as part of a larger spending bill but didn't get a hearing in the Senate. And late in the legislative session, a panel of House and Senate members didn't have the needed support to add the bills to a larger public safety and judiciary spending bill.
"Minnesotans have been loud and clear that they want the legislature to take action to address senseless gun violence," House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said. "We know we can't stop all acts of senseless violence. But we also know that these measures can make a difference — because they are making a difference where they've been enacted, in both Republican and Democratic-led states."
Walz said he'd be willing to call a special legislative session to discuss the gun control measures if lawmakers could reach an agreement about them ahead of time.