Changes on the horizon to state’s gun laws?

MARSHALL – While politics will surely play a role on the national level when it comes to debate on stricter, more widespread gun control, in Minnesota, Sen. Gary Dahms isn’t convinced politics will drive any local debate one way or the other. In fact, he doesn’t foresee any changes on the horizon to the state’s current liberal gun laws.

“Anytime you have these issues, people are going to ask for a change in laws, and if you’re talking about tightening up laws, politics is certainly going to play into it,” said Dahms, R-Redwood Falls. “People might want to say it’s Republicans versus Democrats, but in Minnesota I don’t believe that. I don’t think there’s going to be an appetite in changing any of our laws. It’s one of those tough situations. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t think that trying to reshape a bunch of gun laws is going to be the answer.”

Still, there is a chance some laws will change.

A firearms bill introduced in the Legislature this week, for example, would eliminate the right of violent felons to petition courts for restoration of their gun ownership rights. The author of the bill, Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, wants to transfer responsibility for those decisions to the Board of Pardons.

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, wants to require background checks for all Minnesota gun sales, including those at gun shows or between private parties, similar to a proposal from President Barack Obama.

Some gun rights supporters say no new restrictions will pass without a fight.

In Minnesota, a permit to carry a gun also acts as a permit to purchase for Minnesota residents. Traditional rifles and shotguns may be purchased without a permit, but a permit is required for private transfers between individuals for the sale of a pistol or “semiautomatic military-style assault weapon.”

Anyone wishing to purchase a gun in Minnesota must be at least 21 years old, must complete an application form, must not be prohibited from possessing a firearm under Minnesota Statute 624.714 (criminal background and mental health history check), must not be listed in the criminal gang investigation system, must be a resident of the county to which one is applying for a permit if you reside in Minnesota and must show proof of training in the safe use of a pistol.

There are currently more than 103,000 gun permit holders in Minnesota.

House Rep. Chris Swedzinski said the state’s gun laws don’t necessarily need to be revised. Swedzinski, a member of the National Rifle Association, said the Obama administration is being counterproductive in seemingly going against groups that represent a certain population of people. The NRA, for example, simply represents its members and their feelings and thoughts on the Second Amendment, he said.

“If you look back at the conversation we had with conceal and carry – which is a good thing for our state – everyone said this is going to become the ‘Wild, Wild West’ and it really hasn’t been,” he said. “If anything, it’s saved lives. Whenever you isolate a group as a whole like President Obama seems to be doing time and time again, it seems to be less about the issue and more about putting wedges between groups of people. All of a sudden, we’re blaming people who haven’t done anything.”

Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said law-abiding citizens are being hurt the most when the federal government takes control over national issues such as gun control.

“We have to ask, ‘Do these proposals actually fix the problem or make it worse?'” he said. “To rely more on government is not the answer. Disarming good people is backward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.