ST. PAUL -- Hours after being sworn in as Minnesota’s 41st governor, Tim Walz reiterated his support for a pair of gun control bills favored by Democratic lawmakers.
At a news conference before a reception in the Capitol Rotunda celebrating his inauguration, Walz said smart gun laws can protect people from violence without infringing on Second Amendment rights.
“Those are not mutually exclusive goals,” the new Democratic governor said.
The Legislature reconvenes Tuesday and advocates on both sides of the gun issue are expected to make their presence felt in St. Paul.
Democrats have said they plan to quickly reintroduce measures that failed to get traction last year - increased background checks and so-called “red flag” laws that allow police to take guns from people deemed dangerous.
Republicans have largely opposed both ideas, saying they will degrade gun owners’ rights. They’ve argued better enforcement of existing laws and improved mental health services would do more to prevent mass shootings and other gun-related tragedies.
But Democrats say their support of the proposals helped them win over voters and played a role in their retaking control of the House. They’ve also argued that most gun owners support such changes.
“I think that just makes sense,” Walz said of the legislative proposals, adding they would make communities safer without hurting lawful gun owners’ rights. “It seems like the right thing to do.”
In Congress, Walz once boasted an A rating from the National Rifle Association. When running for governor he said he “evolved” on gun control issues and the lobbying group gave him a new grade of F.
Gun control again became a national issue in 2018 after the massacre of 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Last legislative session, students from around the Twin Cities marched to the Capitol to demand new gun control measures.
But both proposals never made it out of committee. Republicans, who controlled both the House and Senate at the time, rejected the ideas and instead focused on providing new funding for school security and to improve access to mental health programs.
Even if new gun laws clear the House this year they will face an uncertain path in the Senate where Republicans still hold a narrow majority.