Five DFL legislators who sponsored a pair of controversial gun control laws that Gov. Tim Walz signed into law last May made a trip to Washington, D.C. this week for a networking event with other state lawmakers from across the country.
State Sens. Ron Latz, Alice Mann and Bonnie Westlin made the trip to the event that Vice President Kamala Harris put on for about 100 legislators from across the nation who helped push for passage of new gun restriction measures in their respective states over the last year. They were joined by DFL House members Kelly Moeller and Dave Pinto.
In September, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to create the “White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.” The new division is overseen by Vice President Harris. Its primary objective is to “enhance the federal government’s partnerships with cities and states to help them advance their own efforts to reduce gun violence,” according to a press statement.
“Powerful morning at the White House!” Rep. Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, said in a social media post on Wednesday. “The new (and 1st ever) [White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention] brought together legislators from around the country, as well as VP Kamala Harris and Rep. Lucy McBath, to celebrate our progress and recommit to doing all we can to keep communities safe.”
Latz, of St. Louis Park, and Moller, of Shoreview, carried the pair of gun control bills in the Senate and House. Those measures, an extreme risk protection order and a universal background check bill, passed in the state Senate along party lines by just one vote. The DFL controls the Senate by a 34-33 majority. In the House just one Democrat voted against the bill.
On Wednesday, Harris announced at the event that she is launching the “the Biden-Harris Administration’s Safer States Initiative,” which the White House said will provide states with additional “tools and the support” to reduce gun violence, including encouraging each state to set up its own “State Office of Gun Violence Prevention.”
“Our responsibility, our chosen responsibility, dare I say, our duty, is to do the work of laying the path to get where we need to go,” Harris told the lawmakers gathered at the event. “And there are best practices, to be fair, including not only what people write in terms of proposing legislation, but how you think about work and how you will think about messaging, how you will think about empowering and uplifting.”
Shoreview DFLer Moller participated in panel discussing gun control successes in MN
During the networking event, Moller served as a panelist at a round table event that highlighted Minnesota and other states that passed new gun control measures into law during their respective 2023 legislative sessions.
“With guns remaining the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., it is critical that we work collaboratively with our federal and state partners to combat gun violence,” Moller said in a press statement on Wednesday. “This is an epidemic that no one state can stop on its own; we must coordinate policy and enforcement. We were inspired by the positive examples of our state partners, and we look forward to bringing back effective policy ideas to Minnesota.”
The DFL legislators’ trip to D.C. follows a legislative session where it was not known until the waning hours whether the DFL would be able to get all 34 of its state senators on board to support those gun control bills, given its one-vote majority over 33 Republicans.
It took until the last days of session for each of the bills to sneak into the final language of an omnibus public safety bill. Moller was one of the legislators behind the scenes in a conference committee who helped convince all 34 DFL state senators, including Grant Hauschild, Judy Seeberger and Rob Kupec, to support those gun control bills. The trio of legislators were considered swing votes on gun control issues because of their thin margins of victory in their respective 2022 campaigns.
Walz, along with Sen. Latz, who was the chief author of the bills in the Senate, took a number of steps to get those swing votes on board, including holding a press conference in March with former congresswoman and gun control activist Gabby Giffords.
The universal background check and red flag provisions were added by the conference committee in mid-May. That committee included no Republicans from either the House or Senate. The two gun control provisions were not included in the original Senate version of the public safety bill that passed the Senate weeks earlier.
The provisions implement background checks on private sales or transfers of pistols and certain types of “semiautomatic, assault-style” rifles and allow judges to issue extreme risk protection orders to enable police to seize guns from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, which is often called a “red flag” law.
VP Harris says she’s ‘absolutely in favor of the Second Amendment’
Back at the White House event on Wednesday, Harris spoke to legislators and said that they have the support of the president and Department of Justice as they go back to their communities and fight for additional “gun violence prevention” legislation.
“We’re up against some who would suggest a false choice,” Harris said. “That is that you are either favoring the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away. I’ll speak for myself. I am absolutely in favor of the Second Amendment. And I’m also in favor of an assault weapons ban.”
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.