AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Minnesota Democrats made gun control a priority this year. They honestly believed they could and would pass gun control bills in a state that isn’t all that progressive in its politics. In particular, Minnesota Democrats wanted a red flag law and a universal background check bill.
After Tuesday in committee, it looks like they won’t get either.
Two gun control measures deemed a top priority by Minnesota DFL lawmakers this session were dealt an all-but-fatal blow Tuesday after they failed to advance on a party-line vote in a joint conference committee on the state’s public safety budget.
The vote, coming after three hours of debate, appeared to stymie efforts by gun control advocates to expand criminal background checks to private gun sales and create a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from people considered a threat to themselves or others.
The gun proposals, similar to federal proposals that have divided Congress, came to a head when Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, called for a vote on whether to add them to a broader spending bill being assembled by members from both the House and Senate.
The gambit paid off for Limmer, who earlier expressed deep reservations about both policy proposals: Committee members split 5-5 along party lines and failed to add either measure to the spending bill.
“I’ve always regarded controversial policies in budget bills as something we really shouldn’t do because it gums up the work,” Limmer said after Tuesday’s meeting. “Let’s tear the Band-Aid off and get at it.”
However, the proposals aren’t completely dead.
It’s entirely possible that they could still make it to the floor through some other means. By virtue of how they were voted on, they can be pushed through using other legislative mechanisms, though it doesn’t seem likely.
The call for a vote appeared to surprise some lawmakers. But Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said afterward that he was not surprised by the result. Mariani, who co-chairs of conference committee with Limmer, noted that other lawmakers on the panel could still revive the gun measures before they finish work on the public safety budget. But Tuesday’s outcome, and the deep divisions over gun rights, signaled that expanded background checks and red flag legislation is likely a dead issue for 2019.
“Technically this could come back at any point in time,” said Mariani. “But I don’t think this was a surprise here in terms of how this vote turned out and I don’t expect that vote frankly to change.”
In other words, Democrats lost, and they know they lost, so there’s no point in fighting the same battle again.
Frankly, I can understand that sentiment completely. While those legislators may have anti-gun positions, they’re also in a role where they have to consider a lot of other issues. They don’t have time to focus on a lost cause, and these bills certainly qualify as one.
For Minnesota residents, this is a huge win. Their rights are preserved, at least for now.