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Gun Control Advocates Upset By Support For Watered-Down Bill

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77648_Pat Kessler WEB Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – An unexpected twist came Wednesday in the efforts to curb gun violence: A majority of the House is now backing a new plan to modestly revise the state’s gun laws.

It appears that while some Democrats were holding public hearings on some very tough gun legislation, other Democrats were working behind the scenes with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to water it down.

The bill’s supporters say it’s the only bill that can pass.

“[It's] what could we do in a bipartisan fashion…to say to the Legislature: We’re serious about working on this issue,” said Rep. Debra Hilstrom (D-Brooklyn Center).

She introduced the bill, with has 73 cosponsors from both parties. It tweaks Minnesota’s background check policy, and cracks down on illegal gun owners.

But there’s no assault weapons ban, no restrictions on high capacity magazines, and no universal background checks.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Rep. Michael Paymar (D-St. Paul).

In a rare public rebuke, Paymar, the author of a much tougher gun bill, said Hilstrom is “doing the bidding of the NRA.”

He also criticized Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek for doing a gun safety photo op with President Barack Obama last month and then failing to support tough gun laws.

“My colleagues on both sides of the aisle are making a real mistake here by lining up with the NRA, ‘cause that’s not where the majority of Minnesotans are,” Paymar said.

At the public unveiling of the stripped-down gun bill, Minnesota’s NRA lobbyist, Chris Rager, stood nearby.

He said NRA won’t support further restrictions.

“A lot of the policies put forth were failed policies that no evidence shows that they would be successful in keeping guns out of the hands of bad guys,” Rager said.

But the head of a gun safety group said Democratic lawmakers buckled under to what she called “the perceived power” of the NRA.

“The fact that the NRA can write our bills for us is troubling to me,” said Heather Martens, of Protect Minnesota. “That’s not going to make us safer in our communities.”

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