Gun week fires up supporters
ST. PAUL -- Gun week in the Minnesota Legislature came and went, but the debate is far from over.
A former law enforcement officer, now a senator, pledges to continue the fight against weakening gun freedoms.
"As a former sheriff and current state senator, I was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the state of Minnesota and the United States," Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, wrote in a letter to the editor. "I take this oath seriously. Unfortunately, it is apparent that some do not.
"I have noticed freedom of speech, under the First Amendment, continually protected while our Second Amendment is constantly under attack," he said of the provision allowing Americans to possess guns.
President Barack Obama was in Minneapolis February 4, and the state House public safety committee held five hearings in the next three days, mostly attended by hundreds of guns-rights supporters.
More than 500 people, many reportedly legally carrying handguns, crammed into a House committee room and two overflow rooms to watch the discussion.
Committee members will debate the issues later this month and take a vote on an overall gun measure.
Provisions examined in recent days include bans on so-called assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition clips. They are the two issues that ran into the most opposition among gun supporters.
When a Senate committee takes up the issue in a week-and-a-half, testimony probably will be similar.
Rural Democratic senators, whose votes are needed if any new gun-control measures could pass, have said they generally oppose the changes.
Ingebrigtsen, a former Douglas County sheriff, and other gun-rights supporters say they can see making some changes to mental health programs to help prevent dangerous mentally ill people from getting guns. But beyond that, they oppose gun-law changes.
"I stand with law abiding citizens, sheriffs and chiefs who will uphold the Constitution and not allow our own government to infringe on citizens' right to keep and bear arms," Ingebrigtsen said.
Ingebrigtsen said in an interview that he wants to talk to Representative Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, before introducing a bill he supports that would allow some school employees to carry guns. Cornish told Forum News Service that he does not plan to introduce the bill because the Democratic-controlled Legislature would not allow it to proceed.
Some are not backing down. Representative Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has legislation to make it illegal for a federal agent to enforce federal gun laws that could be perceived as restrictive.
"Minnesotans have a right to the self-protection that firearms provide, along with a right to use a firearm for hunting and recreational shooting" Drazkowski said.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, predicted Senate testimony would be "much of the same" as seen in the House. "It is an issue that Minnesotans are very divided on."
Bakk said he expects Senate committees to pass "something," but he does not know how it might look.
He said he probably can support closing some loopholes in existing law and banning "straw purchases," where someone buys a gun on behalf of a felon.
"I own a lot of semi-automatics," Bakk said, but not any that he would consider assault weapons. "I can't buy any more because my gun safe is full."
Fathers and grandfathers give guns to their kids, Bakk said. "They are cherished family heirlooms."