About an hour before Gov. Tim Walz signed a pair of intensely debated gun control measures into law on Friday morning, he took to social media and tweeted, “There’s no place for weapons of war in our schools, churches, banks, or anywhere else people are just trying to live their lives.”
At his bill signing press conference, Walz didn’t expound on how the new laws — which will implement universal background checks on 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 — relate to his “weapons of war” tweet. But he did promise the new laws, which go into effect Aug. 1, will save lives.
“I grew up around firearms,” Walz told media, legislators and gun violence prevention activists gathered at the signing ceremony Friday. “I own them to this day. I hunt. I was a ‘top gun’ of the congressional trap shoot [event] three years in a row. I know how to use these things. I understand our rights as Americans to do these things.”
“But I refuse to allow extremists to define what responsible gun ownership looks like and make this [debate] look like it is about the Second Amendment,” Walz continued. “This is not about the Second Amendment. This is about the safety of our children and our communities.”
Gunowners’ rights organizations in Minnesota, and several Republican legislators disagree. And they have opined at the Capitol this session that the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) legislation, in particular, may face a constitutional challenge because it will allow a judge to issue a temporary seizure of an individual’s firearms via an ex parte hearing.
Rob Doar of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus told legislators in multiple committee hearings this session that the universal background check bill would actually harm law-abiding citizens with overburdensome processes, such as requiring a permit for every back-and-forth private party transfer of handguns or rifles with certain attachments and giving local law enforcement the authority to mandate a 20-day waiting period for such transfers to take place.
But officials with the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association on hand at Walz’s bill signing event said both the ERPO and universal background check laws will go a long way to curb gun violence.
“We know this will not prevent all gun violence, but on behalf of the [Minnesota] Chiefs of Police Association, we know it will prevent the majority of it,” said Richfield Police Chief Jay Henthorne.
Former congresswoman and well-known gun control activist Gabby Giffords was on hand for the bill signing ceremony, where Walz affixed his signature to the $880 million public safety and judiciary legislative package that includes the gun control measures. Giffords only spoke for about 30 seconds, but it was her second stop in St. Paul during this legislative session as Walz, DFL legislative leaders and Attorney General Keith Ellison have stumped for red flag gun control legislation.
Earlier this week the House passed a final version of the public safety bill in an otherwise party-line 69-63 vote. Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, voted against the bill. The Senate voted 34-33 on party lines to pass the bill on Friday, May 12. All 34 Democrats supported the legislation.
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.