Monday, March 12, 2018

Bipartisan State Senators Announce Universal Background Checks Bills to Reduce Gun Violence

"Saving student's lives is more important than anyone's partisan agendas," Sen. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville) said, announcing a new agreement among four, bipartisan state senators to support universal background checks and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms.  
"After the Parkland tragedy," Little recalled, "I knew I couldn't stomach another massacre, I had to try to do something. But how can we break 30 years of gridlock that's dominated gun politics?"  His solution was to focus on areas of existing, common agreement across the aisle, "I began by reaching out to gun owners, NRA members and Republicans, asking how they thought we should prevent the next Parkland. I was amazed by how many gun owners didn't accept the old dogma, and were eager to talk about solutions." 
Two Democrats, Sen. Little and Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) signed on with two Republicans, Sen. Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth) and Sen. Scott Jensen (R-Chaska) to a pair of bills authored by Little focused on reducing gun violence.  
The first bill requires background checks for all firearm transfers, except those on a list of exclusions, such as transfers between close family members, temporary loans, or between law enforcement officers. The bill requires private sales to occur in front of a federally licensed firearms dealer after a standard background check. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Minnesota has over 1,440 Federal licensed gun dealers, almost twice the number of post offices, and 98.9 percent of the population lives within 10 miles of a licensed dealer.
"As the parent of a teenager, I join all the parents in Minnesota who want to feel safe sending our children to school." Sen. Kent said. "Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America. We have to ask ourselves, how many more must die before we are willing work together to reduce gun violence? "
"These are challenging discussions, but if we're really going to walk the walk, and address the real problem, which is mental health and access, then these discussions need to take place," Sen. Jensen said.
"We're willing to do background checks on Sunday School teachers. When I hire a medical assistant in my clinic I can do a background check there," Jensen said prior to the press conference. "But we want to be able to sell guns and handguns and assault rifles and not do background checks because they bought it over the internet or they bought it at a private gun show? That doesn't make any sense."
The second bill prevents straw buyers from circumventing background checks, by requiring that all lost or stolen firearms be reported to local law enforcement. Straw buyers pretend to buy guns for themselves, while intending to sell the weapons, at a premium price, to people who cannot legally buy a firearm. "Right now, straw buyers can lie about 'losing'the guns they are actually selling, which effectively allows criminals to buy guns, and prevents us from punishing their illegal suppliers. This bill puts an end to all that," Sen. Little observed. 
"These bills are a pragmatic, common-sense approach to a much larger conversation," Sen. Anderson said. "We hope our coalition will encourage other bipartisan discussions around the serious issues facing our nation."  
"Victims of gun violence are not targeted because they are Republicans or Democrats," Sen. Anderson observed. "Members of both parties are leading discussions across the country. We can, and must, work together to find ways to make sure our schools are safe, address the mental health crisis and find ways to reduce gun violence while protecting the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens."
"I know people will make the same old objections," Sen. Little seemed resigned but ready for opposition. "People will say these bills won't end all gun violence or guarantee an end to all school shootings. Of course, that's true -- we know there is no single solution to stop all gun violence, but every step will reduce the number of future deaths. We need a package of comprehensive solutions, and these bills are a great place to start."  
"I think we've hit the point," Sen. Kent noted, "where we all understand the issue and how bad it is, and we all want to do something about it." The frequency of mass school shootings is rising rapidly: over 188 mass school shootings have occurred since the fatal events at Columbine High School in 1999, killing over 200 students and teachers, and injuring another 200. More than 150,000 students attended schools where mass shootings occurred. Similarly, mass shootings outside schools have escalated, and gun violence more broadly now claims over 13,000 lives and injures more than 25,000 each year in the United States. 
"These bills are only possible because senators from both parties were willing to look beyond their party self-interest," Little added. "Without meaningful bipartisan legislation, another school shooting is virtually inevitable. Partisan gridlock is literally costing our students' lives, and only breaking beyond party politics can save them." 
For more information, contact:

Sen. Matt Little                                                            Sen. Susan Kent                      
2413 Minnesota Senate Building                                      2325 Minnesota Senate Building
St. Paul, MN 55155                                                        St. Paul, MN 55155                                      
(651) 296-7633                                                              (651) 296-4166
Sen. Scott Jensen                                                          Sen. Paul Anderson
3229 Minnesota Senate Building                                      2103 Minnesota Senate Building
St. Paul, MN 55155                                                        St. Paul, MN 55155                                   
(651) 296-4837                                                              (651) 296-9261

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