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Minn. House Panel Votes To Strip Abusers Of Guns

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — A Minnesota House committee approved a far reaching measure Tuesday to protect families from domestic violence. It requires convicted abusers to surrender their guns to police or to a federally registered firearms dealer.

The House public safety committee approved the measure on a voice vote. Rep. Dan Schoen, the Cottage Grove Democrat sponsoring it, said anyone who beats women and children doesn’t deserve to have a gun.

The bill would also bar people subject to restraining orders from having guns.

“All too often, our victims report that their abuser threatened that they would kill her or her children if she left,” Sara Grewing, the St. Paul City Attorney, said, “and the presence of a weapon in that home made that threat not just possible, but highly likely.”

The Coalition for Battered Women in Minnesota reports 38 people died in domestic violence incidents in 2013; 10 were women murdered with guns.

Not everyone supports the idea, however, including an abuse victim who’s a gun owner.

“Down came the fist! Down came the fist!” Julie Zappa, a domestic violence survivor, said in dramatic testimony.

Zappa told lawmakers her abuser beat her with fists, and tortured her with guns, gasoline — even a telephone cord. But she said it won’t stop abusers from getting a gun.

“Don’t fall for the fallacy,” she said. “It’s a fallacy that a piece of paper will keep me safe. Your good intentions — I appreciate them — but they will not keep me safe.”

And while some gun owners worry about the law infringing on their rights, the author of the bill said law abiding gun owners don’t need to worry.

“I don’t want to take guns away from law-abiding gun owners,” said Rep. Dan Schoen, (DFL) St. Paul Park, who is a police officer. “But the fact remains that abusers, they don’t deserve them. If you beat women and children, you don’t deserve to have your gun.”

Some lawmakers question why gun owners should surrender weapons when only 10 of the 38 domestic violence murders last year were committed with guns. One lawmaker wanted to know statistics for the number of domestic violence incidents that were prevented with guns.

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association also supports the measure, saying domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous for police: 14 percent of officers killed are killed in domestic violence calls. Ninety-seven percent of them are killed by guns.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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