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Reducing gun violence common goal

Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance President Joseph Olson, also a law professor at Hamline University, discusses gun legislation before a Senate committee Friday at the state Capitol. Forum News Service photo by Danielle Killey

ST. PAUL — Something can be done about gun violence in Minnesota.

Gun rights and gun control advocates generally agree on that point, but they don’t necessarily agree on what comes next.

“To do nothing … is to give up,” Mary Streufert of Duluth said.

Her daughter, Carin, was shot and killed 21 years ago, and she said if a law change can save any lives “it will make a big difference.”

Lawmakers at the state Capitol have discussed various proposals on firearms this month, including tightening restrictions on who can purchase them, banning certain types of weapons and ammunition and expanding background checks.

“I think everyone at this table would like to see gun violence reduced,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said.

He said while there are different routes, he believes lawmakers are acting “in good faith” toward the goal.

Some opposed to tightening regulations said that improving the current background check system, addressing mental health concerns and enforcing existing gun laws could be a more effective start.

“No law will end gun violence but we can attempt to address the underlying shortfalls we have in our society.” Sen. Scott Newman, R- Hutchinson, said. “The issue is not gun control but rather our lack of properly dealing with mental illness in this country.”

He said the state should give school employees, social workers and law enforcement “the tools and ability to better communicate with each other once they suspect potential trouble.”

Kevin Vick, owner of Crucible Arms in Lakeville, said there are gaps in the current background check system and said those should be addressed before adding additional regulations.

Others said that is not enough.

Streufert said she and her husband spoke with the men who killed her daughter and said the guns they had played a role.

“I have come to believe that a lot of crime happens because it’s a power issue,” she said. “The guns gave these two particular men a feeling of power they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Greg Dahlstrom of Lakeville, a gun rights advocate, said one bill he would support was a proposal to create a voluntary system where people dealing with issues such as mental illness could surrender weapons and be put on a list of those ineligible to receive gun permits.

“This is one bill that would have impacted the Sandy Hook shooter,” he said, referencing the December shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut that killed 26 people.

Lawmakers have not voted on gun bills, and the provisions face challenges.

Some rural Democrats have said they cannot support gun control legislation. The format of the bills could be an issue as well.

Both Latz and House Public Safety Committee chairman Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, each plan to put gun-related proposals into an overall bill for a vote. Some lawmakers have said that means pieces of legislation that might have passed on their own could suffer.

“I think that we probably could build very widespread support for some of these bills,” Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said. “But when you start adding in more and more it’s going to get more complicated, more divisive, more polarizing and it will create an awful lot of conflict that we don’t need to have.”

Paymar has said he plans to hold a vote later this month, and Latz said he plans to craft his overall bill soon.

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