State firearm background checks or not


Minnesotans currently wanting to buy a handgun or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon from a federally licensed dealer must first obtain a state permit through their local police after a seven-day waiting period.

Approved on a 10-7 party-line vote, the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee approved a bill to skip the state authorization. The bill, which has no Senate companion, was sent to the House Civil Law Committee.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), the sponsor of HF161, said the bill, as amended, simply removes an unfunded local mandate he called “a redundancy in the law.”

He said the current law was written in 1977, long before the ability to perform almost instantaneous federal background checks.

State permits must be renewed every year.

Drazkowski said a sheriff in a county with a population of 21,000 said this bill would save 30 minutes to one hour of staff time per week. “If you extrapolate that up to some of the metro counties, you’re looking at a full position or positions that will be able to be eliminated by the cities and counties in those jurisdictions because of the elimination of this redundant mandate.”

Representatives from the police chief and officer associations spoke against the bill arguing, in part, it weakens public protection.

“We strongly feel that these local checks are not redundant,” said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. “I’ve never heard a chief of police complain about the resources it takes to do this. … I’d rather us err in being complete on these checks.”

Bloomington Police Sgt. Mark Elliott said two provisions in Minnesota are more restrictive than the federal database. Someone charged with a crime of violence and placed in a pretrial diversion program before a disposition would be ineligible to get a permit under Minnesota law, but would get a federal OK. The other is for gross misdemeanor offenses, including crimes committed for the benefit of a gang, stalking and child neglect.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) noted that no database is going to be perfect. “Over 35 states are satisfied with the federal system. … With the availability of guns in our society, I’m not sure that a permit process is overly effective in keeping the guns out of the hands of those that want to commit crime.”

Firearm transfers between private individuals are not subject to state or federal background checks.