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Wave Of Gun Bills Comes Before Obama’s Visit

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota prosecutors said Thursday  they need more power to charge violent felons with gun crimes.

That’s why they’re teaming up with Minnesota lawmakers to crack down on what they say are legal loopholes that contribute to gun violence.

This is the first wave of gun bills at the Minnesota Legislature since a series of gun massacres across the country last year. The bills come just days ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Twin Cities to talk about gun violence.

Prosecutors say the legal loopholes often don’t allow them to charge some felons with firearm possession. In some cases, juveniles are carrying weapons for felons, but can’t be charged as adults.

“If a person, before they are 18, has been picked up four times carrying a pistol, perhaps they weren’t the person who used it,” said Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County Attorney.

He added: “What’s a 16 year old doing with a gun?”

Besides a new adult crime for juveniles with guns, some lawmakers want to ban domestic abusers convicted of strangulation from owning guns. The proposed laws would also make it illegal to help a  convicted violent felon get a gun, and felons would also be banned from possessing ammunition.

Prosecutors will also seek a gun ban for people certified as mentally ill or dangerous, even if they are not immediately committed for treatment.

“People need to know that their elected officials are responding to their concerns,” said Rep. John Lesch (D-St. Paul).

The gun bills come in the wake of a mass shooting at a Connecticut school.

Gun rights legislators say targeting violent felons will get wide support from both sides of the aisle. But Sen. Bill Ingebrigtson, a former sheriff, says gun restrictions that target legal gun owners may be on the way, too.

“These are bad people who grab the gun — the gun that you and I have in our closet or our gun safe– and they go out and commit crimes,” he said. “A gun has never yet gotten up by itself and gone out and shot anybody.”

The House Public Safety Committee will hold three days of hearings on gun bills next week – something that is highly unusual.

Those bills might include more than gun restrictions; some may seek to arm teachers in Minnesota schools.

The White House says the Obama will visit the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center, and will talk with Minnesotans about what it says are “additional steps” the federal government can take to reduce gun violence.

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