Minnesota Democrats still struggling to find support for "red flag" law ***UPDATED***

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party may have control of both chambers of the Minnesota legislature but its majorities are razor-thin, and a couple of rural DFLers have been keeping quiet about where they stand on a number of gun control proposals introduced by their colleagues this year, which means it’s anyone’s guess as to whether any of the anti-gun measures will actually make it to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk.

According to one state senator, however, lawmakers are “close” to reaching a compromise on “red flag” legislation as well as a bill expanding background checks on private firearm transfers. Sen. Ron Latz says the DFL will be releasing the text of compromise language this week, but despite his assertion that a deal is within reach, for the moment it looks like Latz and other supporters are still trying to drum up the votes necessary to win final approval.

If the conference committee approves the gun measures as part of a larger package of public safety spending and policy, that omnibus bill would still need a vote in both chambers. But approval by a conference committee would still be a major development because the DFL is unlikely to advance an omnibus bill for a vote in the House or Senate if it doesn’t have enough support.

One senator who had concerns about the red flag policy, Sen. Judy Seeberger, DFL-Afton, helped write the revised policies. She said on Wednesday that earlier versions of the red flag proposal “did not adequately take into consideration the rights of the law-abiding gun owners.”

“We have to navigate that line between doing what we need to to address gun violence while also respecting the rights of the law-abiding gun owners in Minnesota,” Seeberger said. “I think if we’re not there yet, we’re darn close to getting that right. So I’m optimistic that we can get something done here yet this session.”

I’m opposed to the very premise of “red flag” laws, since I don’t believe a gun-centric approach to dealing with individuals who are a danger to themselves or others alleviates their dangerousness, so I’m not likely to be satisfied with whatever “compromise” Seeberger’s helped craft, but gun owners should also be skeptical of just how meaningful any additional due process protections will be given that Latz says one-sided hearings where the subject of the petition is not present or represented will still be a key part of any “red flag” bill.

Latz told MinnPost in April that he wouldn’t support a version of a red flag law without an ex-parte “emergency” policy. “Without the ex-parte part of it, you don’t have the ability on an emergency basis to separate someone who’s in the middle of a crisis of some sort from the guns that are already in their possession,” Latz said. “Without that path it’s just not worth it.”

Latz said on Wednesday the potential compromise bill keeps that provision. “The changes are comparatively minor,” he said. “That’s a core feature of it.”

Latz’s argument is baloney, by the way. Minnesota, like every other state, has a law that allows for individuals suspected of posing a danger to themselves or others to be held for up to 72 hours for a mental health evaluation. If a mental health professional finds that the individual in question is indeed a danger, they can be involuntarily committed for treatment, which would not only separate them from their firearms but ensure that they get treatment; a feature lacking in the vast majority of “red flag” laws in place across the country.

If these ex parte hearings are still a feature of the “red flag” bill, then it sounds like that’s not much of a compromise at all, and Latz’s dismissal of the changes as “relatively minor” should send up warning flares for gun owners and Second Amendment advocates in the state. DFLers like Seeberger may be looking for political cover by offering small tweaks to the legislation, but simply paying lip service to the concerns of civil rights advocates and gun owners isn’t going to cut it.

The good news is that while Latz says lawmakers are “close” to a compromise, he’s clearly not confident that he has the necessary votes locked down to win approval of either a “universal background check” law or a measure establishing Extreme Risk Protection Orders. He’s still stumping for votes, and I’m sure that Gov. Walz is doing some behind-the-scenes arm-twisting and sweet talking in the hopes of getting these new infringements across the finish line, but there’s no guarantee that either of them will be successful; especially if gun owners use their own voices to speak out about the dangers these anti-2A bills pose to the civil liberties and public safety of Minnesotans at large.


Either Latz and DFL leadership have gotten commitments from the entire caucus to support the gun control bills or they’re playing hardball, because the conference committee working on the “compromise” language passed both bills with absolutely no debate or discussion as this post was being written.

As the Minnesota Gun Owner’s Caucus points out, these aren’t standalone gun control bills, but are part of a broader “public safety” spending bill. That won’t provide as much political cover as the DFL would like, especially if gun owners in the legislative districts the caucus mentioned above flood their offices with calls and emails in opposition. More importantly, it won’t be of any help at all when it comes to the inevitable court challenges that will arise if the omnibus bill is approved and signed into law. I won’t deny that the odds of defeating this bill on the floor of the House or Senate are pretty long, but that’s still the top priority at the moment.