'Red flag' bill moves forward at Minnesota Capitol
ST. PAUL — Gun owners believed to pose significant risk to themselves or others could have their firearms temporarily removed under a proposal advancing through the Minnesota Legislature.
The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division on a 10-7 vote advanced a so-called "red flag" bill, which would allow family members, law enforcement officers and government attorneys to seek court orders taking away guns from persons determined to be an “extreme risk” if living in a home with guns.
Public safety and health officials, gun control advocates, a police chief and a county attorney spoke in favor of the bill, saying it could reduce the number of suicides and other gun-related deaths in the state.
"I think the data are abundantly clear that this bill will save lives," Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. "Limiting access to lethal means is an effective strategy to reduce suicide."
Opponents, including gun owners, gun rights activists, a criminal defense attorney and a Minneapolis reverend said the bill wouldn't reduce instances of suicide or gun violence in the state. And they said it could remove a gun owner's due process rights.
“When you only listen to one side of the story, you don’t get the full picture," said Rob Doar, Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus political director. “That’s far too low of a bar to restrict the Second Amendment right or any civil right.”
The panel also approved a bill that would take up the proposals requiring universal background checks at the point of sale or transfer of a firearm on a 10-7 vote. Both proposals move now to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Legislative leaders in the state's divided government dug in on their stances on the proposals last week, setting up a likely conflict.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, last week said that the conversation around gun control had shifted since the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and lawmakers had a responsibility to vote on the bills. She said if Senate leaders wouldn't put the bills to a vote, she'd add them to House spending plans.
Lawmakers need to come to an agreement on a two-year budget by May or risk shutting down the state government.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said if Democrats added the bills to the budget proposal he would remove them.