Gun debate: Snowed out at Schiff breakfast meeting?

A flurry of Facebook and E-Democracy forums forecast a heated debate at Minneapolis City Councilperson Gary Schiff's monthly breakfast last Friday. About 40 people slogged through the snow for the February 22 event at Mercado Central, but the promised gun controversy failed to materialize.

Earlier in the week the Twin Cities Gun Owners & Carry Forum had listed the breakfast as an “action item” on the group’s Facebook page. Gun enthusiasts were encouraged to attend and buttonhole Representative Jim Davnie (DFL-63A). Davnie, who represents Seward and parts of adjoining neighborhoods, “wants to make you a felon” according to the post in the pro-gun forum.

At issue was Davnie’s sponsorship of H.F. 238 and H.F. 239, measures to equalize penalties for unlawful possession of firearms. The issue is one small part of the larger gun control debate in the Minnesota legislature. [See sidebar for details.]

Davnie's gun penalty equalization proposal

Under current Minnesota law, if you are convicted of illegally carrying a gun on school property you are guilty of a felony. If you hold a permit to carry a concealed weapon the same offense is charged as a misdemeanor. Davnie sees it as an issue of equal justice under the law.

On January 31, H.F. 238 was introduced with seven co-sponsors. The bill, which picked up two additional Democratic co-sponsors in February, would eliminate special treatment for permit holders. The other measure, H.F. 239, levels a similar disparity in penalties for persons illegally carrying weapons on private property.

On the other side of the issue are those gun owners who see the change as a step toward loss of their Second Amendment rights, characterizing as “gun grabbers” those who propose tightening firearms regulations. Members of the pro-gun lobby have been a vocal presence at recent Minnesota Senate hearings on gun violence prevention. Their potential disruption of the breakfast drew attention from several media outlets.

Surveying the room as the breakfast began, I wondered who might be armed. Was that an NRA cap that the guy behind me is wearing? No, a quick look revealed a horse track insignia. Neither the man with thick loop earrings, nor the woman next to him with the nurse’s association lanyard around her neck look like they’d be packing, but that’s just a guess. Was the man wearing a Pendleton Wool hunting jacket talking about a buying a Glock or a clock? You’d think it would be easier to determine who’s on what side. In truth, the boundary between “us” and “them” is a hard line to draw.

“You probably heard on TV that we are talking about guns,” Senator Torres Ray (DFL-63) began. “I am not involved in that conversation.” Her focus was education: early childhood programs, repeal of high stakes graduation testing, and the importance of including art and environmental curriculum. When it was his turn, Representative Davnie also skipped any mention of gun violence prevention.

Toward the end of the breakfast participants were invited to write their questions on index cards. There were pointed inquiries about public funding of sports facilities, rental housing arbitration systems, property tax refund schemes, and funding for multi-modal transportation, but the hour and a half session ended without anyone asking about guns.

Asked about the absent firearms advocates Schiff quipped, “Maybe they’re not morning people.”

Davnie was more philosophical. “We have to have cultural conversations,” he said. “I was expecting a conversation and the people didn’t show up.” He does hear feedback about gun law changes, though his emails lean strongly toward support of measures to prevent gun violence.

“I did have a constituent visit my office yesterday,” Davnie said. He was a law-abiding gun owner, concerned about maintaining his freedom to carry a weapon. After a conversation about the legislation, the man left, saying he was reconsidering his opposition to Davnie’s proposals.

  • We are "morning people," but unlike most of the people likely in attendance, we work. Many of us who were able to wrangle time away from work were at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Friday, and at the numerous other gun bill hearings over the last few weeks, which is more than can be said for some of the extremist gun control bill authors or House Public Safety Committee members. Rep. Alice Hausman, who "authored" extremist HF 241 gun bans, registration and confiscation and HF 242 and HF 243 standard capacity magazine bans couldn't be bothered to present her own bills and left it up to paid shill and anti-gun lobbyist Heather Martens. Also during that first set of hearings, many of the Democrat House Public Safety Committee members rudely and unprofessionally left the hearing on the "assault weapon" ban hearing just as the bill opponents took the table to speak. Sickening. As long as we're on the subject, did you know that the extremist HF 241 gun ban, registration, confiscation bill defines common-use revolvers as "assault weapons"? Yeah. Extremist. Controlling. Targeting law abiding citizens. And as for Davnie's bills... He IS looking to make felons out of law abiding citizens. His bills are not "equalization" of penalties. It's already illegal for someone without a permit to be carrying a weapon anywhere, let alone on school property. So, there's that. But he wouldn't want silly facts to get in the way. - by Twin Cities Gun Owners & Carry Forum on Mon, 02/25/2013 - 4:40pm
  • And next time you're looking for us, we're real easy to spot so let me help you out... Here's what we look like: - by Twin Cities Gun Owners & Carry Forum on Mon, 02/25/2013 - 5:35pm

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Mary Jane LaVigne's picture
Mary Jane LaVigne

Mary Jane LaVigne (MaryJaneLaVigne [at] comcast [dot] net), a writer and activist, is a winner of the Loft Mentor Series in creative non-fiction.