Universal background checks taken off the table in Minn. House

Universal background checks taken off the table in Minn. House

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

A new gun safety law that would require universal background checks on nearly all gun purchases got first test before the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, but the bill's author took the bill off the table after a struggle for support.

A vote on the bill authored by Rep. Michael Paymar, of St. Paul, was expected at about 7 p.m. after a similar bill cleared a Senate committee last week. 

"What this bill does is: It expands background checks to gun shows and people who purchase in-state, over the Internet and to private sales," Paymar said.

The vote was delayed until 8:15, but Paymar eventually withdrew his bill and said he would work with other lawmakers to find a consensus instead.

Paymar's bill would not have applied to family members selling a gun to one another, but other private sales -- from pistols to semi-automatic rifles -- would have required sellers to bring the gun to a federally-licensed dealer for a background check and license transfer fee costing $25.

"The public supports this," Paymar insisted. "Over 70 percent in all of the polling data in Minnesota -- Republican, Democrat, rural, law enforcement. Governor Dayton supports this bill."

The bill is faced stiff opposition from Republicans and the National Rifle Association. Both argue the measure would infringe upon a constitutional right.

A number of pastors expressed their support for the bill during Tuesday's hearing, leading to an interesting exchange on scripture from Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, a strong gun rights supporter.

"What do you think Jesus meant in Luke in the New Testament when he said, 'Sell your cloak and buy a sword'?" Cornish queried. "The reason I ask is that we always get pastors coming up here and playing the moral card on us and saying we have to pass a bill when I think that Jesus would have been plenty in support of protecting his family from violence if he had to."

The reference Cornish made comes from last supper, when Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for his death; however, there are many differing theological interpretations of that passage.

Gun control is one of the most emotional and frequently discussed issues at the Capitol, especially after the mass shooting at Accent Signage Systems last fall what left six people dead.

The withdrawal of Paymar's bill also comes on the same day that Democrats in the U.S. Senate announced they would drop an attempt to ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons.

A previous gun control bill in Minnesota saw a try for a similar ban, but it didn't make it very far. Outcry from gun owners was so strong that it was one of the first provisions to get dropped after the initial debate.

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