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Closing a weapons loophole

Published (3/11/2010)
By Mike Cook
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Jerry Dhennin, retired sheriff’s deputy, displays an assault rifle to the House Crime Victims/Criminal Records Division March 5 during his testimony supporting a bill that would require a background check for transfer of a firearm at a gun show. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)There is no silver bullet to stopping gun violence, but a loophole could be closed to keep a firearm away from someone who shouldn’t have one.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), HF2960 would prohibit the sale of a firearm at a gun show without conducting a background check on the buyer.

The House Crime Victims/Criminal Records Division held it over March 5 for possible inclusion in its division report. A companion, SF2659, sponsored by Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The dangerous people the background check can uncover are felons, individuals who have been convicted of a domestic assault and those with serious mental health problems,” Paymar said. He noted that other states, including California, Michigan and Pennsylvania, use the process specified in the bill. The bill is patterned after a Colorado statute enacted following the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. A friend purchased the guns used by the shooters from an unlicensed seller at a gun show.

Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria) and Rep. Dave Olin (DFL-Thief River Falls) said nothing presented at the meeting showed a definitive connection between gun show sales and crimes with a firearm.

“There’s nothing in this bill that will stop a criminal from purchasing from an individual who is not a federally licensed dealer outside a gun show,” Kohls said.

Joseph Olson, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance of Minnesota, said the bill would only “create a harassment situation for the million-and-a-half law abiding gun owners in Minnesota who wish to sell their private property to other folks.”

Paymar emphasized the bill does not infringe on the right to bear arms; it only affects gun shows by requiring a promoter to arrange for at least one federally licensed firearm dealer on the premises to obtain the background checks.

“We require background checks for teachers, and for coaches and for some people in certain jobs,” said Joan Peterson, president of the Minnesota Million Mom Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Why then, would you not require them for dangerous people who buy guns?”

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