Opponents, supporters line up in ‘ticketed event’ to debate four gun control bills

Critics of the DFL-sponsored gun control bills include the ACLU Minnesota chapter.

gun control
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi testifies in favor of a bill to make Minnesota a red-flag state. (MN House Info)

The Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is opposing three gun control bills that DFL legislators pushed through a state House public safety committee on Friday.

The bills would require new standards of safe storage of firearms (HF396), create criminal background checks for private party firearms transfers (HF14), and also establish a red-flag law allowing law enforcement and families to petition a court to prohibit individuals from possessing firearms if they are believed to pose a significant danger to themselves or others by possessing a firearm (HF15).

In its written testimony opposing the gun control measures, ACLU Minnesota said all three pieces of proposed legislation may be “well-intentioned policies that could be wielded by the state with discriminatory intent or impact” on “disempowered communities.”

“ACLU-MN has and will continue to express concerns with respect to the expansion of state power and perpetuation of discriminatory systems. The fundamental principles of civil liberties do not wax and wane depending on which political party is proposing to infringe on them,” Julie Decker, policy director for the organization, wrote.

Despite those concerns, the nine DFL legislators in the House Public Safety Finance & Policy Committee voted to support each of the bills. The six Republicans who voted against the bills all expressed skepticism that the measures would do anything other than create unreasonable burdens for responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

“There is a theme to these bills being presented here today,” said Rep. Walter Hudson, R-Albertville. “That theme is that life is going to get more difficult for a certain class of people in Minnesota. Not for the people committing crimes … but for people who want to be able to engage in protecting themselves through their Second Amendment rights.”

A fourth DFL-sponsored gun control measure, HF601, was also passed through the committee on a party-line vote. That bill would make it a crime if gun owners don’t report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours.

Each of the bills will make their way through additional committees before receiving a vote on the House floor.

While Gov. Tim Walz’s commissioner of public safety, Bob Jacobson, testified in support of the legislation, the DFL holds only a one-seat majority in the Senate. The bills in the Senate have not yet received a hearing.

A ‘ticketed event’

The quartet of gun control bills drew so many interested testifiers — both in opposition and support — that the House had to make the hearing a “ticketed event.” More than 100 written testimonies were submitted, including letters of support from the Minnesota Peace and Police Officers Association and Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

Testifiers included Rev. Tim Christopher, a North Minneapolis resident and member of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, who echoed the ACLU Minnesota concerns over the bill that racial minorities, and particularly Black Minnesotans, will be disproportionately harmed by the legislation.

“This bill (HF15) is one that scares me when it comes to the Black community,” said Christopher, who’s been outspoken on issues of violence and policing in Minneapolis. “This bill can be used as a no-knock raid in the Black community. I feel this will hurt us more than it will help us.”

Commonly known as red-flag laws, the language in HF15 would allow family or household members or law enforcement officers to petition a court to issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), which prohibits respondents to the action from possessing firearms for a minimum of six months. The individuals do not have to have been charged with a crime in order for a court to issue the ERPO.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, who testified in support of the bill, said it “would provide an important tool not just for government and law enforcement, but really for families and communities. Many times it’s the families that can identify these situations before we can.”

But Rob Doar of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus said the legislation contains several constitutionally problematic components, including the fact that the ERPO would be issued in an ex parte capacity.

“What the red-flag law does is it operates these emergency provisions under the presumption that the situation is so urgent that we can’t afford to bring this person into court,” Doar said. “But we get a secret order, we go knock on their door and take their firearms. And now that their firearms are gone, the situation is fine. That is an entirely false premise.”


Hank Long

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.