Democrats advance two gun control bills in Minnesota House

HF 4300, authored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, would set new laws for how firearms must be stored.

HF 4300, authored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, D-Roseville, would set new laws for how firearms must be stored. (Minnesota House Info/YouTube)

Democrats in the Minnesota House of Representatives advanced two gun control bills on Thursday that have Republicans, gun groups, and private citizens concerned.

HF 4300, authored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, D-Roseville, would set new laws for how firearms must be stored. Under the proposed law, gun owners must either leave their firearms unloaded with a locking device, or store their firearms in a legitimate “firearm storage unit” such as a safe. Citizens who fail to do so will face legal consequences ranging from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the offense.

Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature have proposed this in response to incidents where children or unauthorized persons have obtained access to firearms.

However, Minnesota law already states that “it is a crime to store or leave a loaded firearm in a location where the person knows, or should know, that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm unless the person takes reasonable action to prevent a child from accessing the firearm.”

Presenting her bill, Rep. Becker-Finn said it was an updated version of her previous “safe storage” legislation. Further, the Ramsey County legislator outlined how the current version has exceptions for law enforcement and would not impact how individuals lawfully transfer firearms. Additionally, Rep. Becker-Finn claimed her legislation would still allow individuals to keep loaded firearms in easy access areas, such as a nightstand, for home defense.

“This bill isn’t about taking away anyone’s legally, lawfully acquired guns,” said Rep. Becker-Finn. “We just want you to store them safely when you’re not using them.”

Several private citizens testified in favor of the bill. Those who spoke told stories of loved ones who were lost to gun violence from guns that were not properly stored. Furthermore, an official with the Minnesota Department of Health testified in favor of the bill.

Opponents of the bill also voiced their opinion.

Rob Doar, the executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, warned that the very act of storing a loaded firearm improperly, regardless of its use, could land someone in jail for a year under the proposed law. Doar also pointed out that the bill does not seek to educate law-abiding Minnesotans on the potential new storage standards.

As such, enactment of this law could mean tens of thousands of Minnesotans who have properly stored their firearms for decades could suddenly be in violation of the law overnight.

Doar said the bill could make leaving a gun safe door open inadvertently a criminal charge, even if there are no children around.

A representative from the NRA said “mandatory storage laws aren’t about restricting unauthorized child access to firearms.” The NRA representative said these laws target “benign conduct” and emphasized that all gun control laws are designed to “discourage gun ownership and eventually eliminate it.”

The second piece of gun control legislation considered by the committee was HF 601, authored by Rep. Kaohly Her. (Minnesota House Info/YouTube)

Additionally, private citizens opposed the bill. One testifier said the proposed law is redundant and trigger locks can be destroyed by criminals who want to gain access to firearms. Another citizen testifier said immediate access of firearms is necessary for home defense, and the Minnesota Legislature does not have the right to restrict his ability to defend his home.

Rep. Kelly Moller, D-Shoreview, the chair of the House Public Safety Committee, cut short the testimonies of citizens who opposed the bill; she never cut off testifiers who supported the bill.

Rep. Elliott Engen, R-White Bear Township, criticized the bill, saying it “takes a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel. We don’t want people overnight to be in violation of statute because A) they don’t even know that it exists, but B) it’s too heavy-handed.”

The “safe-storage” law was approved by the Public Safety Committee on a voice vote. As such, the bill was sent to the Ways and Means Committee, one of the final stops before legislation eventually goes to the House floor.

The second piece of gun control legislation considered by the committee was HF 601. Authored by Rep. Kaohly Her, D-St. Paul, this legislation would require gun owners to report stolen or lost firearms to law enforcement. If a gun owner fails to report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours after learning of the theft, they would be guilty of a petty misdemeanor on the first offense.

Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, said the proposed bill represented a potential violation of the Fifth Amendment. However, Rep. Her said that lost or stolen firearms laws exist in several states and have not been challenged.

Just like the previous bill, HF 601 was approved by the House Public Safety Committee and sent on to the Committee on Ways and Means.


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.