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Gun control measures come up for debate in Minnesota House, Senate GOP says they're 'dead'

Gun control advocates gathered for a rally at the Minnesota Capitol on Monday, April 29, 2019, ahead of a House of Representatives vote on a public safety spending bill that included a pair of measures aimed at reducing gun violence. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service 1 / 3
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, on Monday, April 29, 2019, told gun control advocates at the Capitol that she would push to pass a pair of bills aimed at reducing gun violence this legislative session. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service2 / 3
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, spoke with reporters at the Capitol on Monday, April 29, 2019. He said he would oppose a pair of gun control measures in a House public safety spending plan. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service3 / 3

ST. PAUL -- Leaders in the nation's only divided Legislature dug in hours before the Minnesota House of Representatives was set to debate two gun control measures Monday, April 29, as part of a larger public safety funding proposal.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, rallied with gun control supporters Monday morning and said the measure would pass in the House, despite opposition from some in her caucus. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, meanwhile, said the bills would be "dead" in the Senate.

The move to add the proposals to the House DFL's public safety and judiciary spending proposal came after Gazelka said the proposals wouldn't pass separately in the Minnesota Senate. The GOP leader last month said he'd hold hearings on the bills if the House passed them off the floor but they would've faced a difficult path in the Republican-controlled Senate.

One of the measures would require background checks at the point of purchase of a firearm. The other so-called "red flag" measure would allow a law enforcement officer to request that the court remove a person's firearms if they are believed to pose a threat to themselves or to others.

In an effort to ensure Gazelka didn't "stomp" them out, Hortman said she added them to the public safety spending bill and was prepared to prioritize them in end-of-session budget talks.

“We are bringing this to negotiations and I plan to fight for these provisions until the very last days,” Hortman said.

Gazelka told reporters that the measures would sink in the Senate.

"We're just not going to do it," Gazelka said. "The bills are dead."

The measure's supporters at a rally Monday morning said they would continue to apply pressure to lawmakers to support the bills. The conversation comes days after a gunman opened fire in a synagogue in San Diego, killing one and injuring three.

And gun rights advocates urged gun owners to call their lawmakers and fill the House gallery Monday evening ahead of the debate.

Other spending bill components:

  • If approved, the bill would allow felons to vote after they've completed their prison sentences.
  • It would ban private prisons in Minnesota.
  • It would create a task force to consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
  • The bill revises the state sexual assault laws and sets up a task force to review them.
  • And the proposal would boost funding for correctional officers.