ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — A proposal to require background checks for all Minnesota’s gun purchases ignited controversy at a Senate hearing Thursday, demonstrating what’s likely to be the biggest dividing line as the Legislature grapples with gun control measures.

Minnesota already requires background checks, but critics say there are huge loopholes that make it easy for buyers to avoid detection. This bill requires universal checks: All buyers, all guns.

Hundreds of gun rights supporters lined the Capitol hallways, many of them openly wearing handguns.

Like Corey Brikmeyer, it’s not only for protection, it’s symbolic.

“It’s a representation of the liberty that we are all fighting for in this country, and the ever creeping government,” said Brikmeyer.

Others said they oppose new restrictions on the ability to possess handguns.

“Cops only show up after a crime has already been committed, about to be committed, or after it’s done or over,” said Anthony Triemert of Brooklyn Park. “I have a right to defend myself, and if need be the people who are around me.”

The Senate is looking at further restricting gun sales to mentally ill people, closing loopholes on gun transfers and juvenile possession of handguns.

At the hearings, however, the focus was universal background checks on all firearms sales. It’s a change in law Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak said could have prevented murders in the state’s largest city.

“Far too many children. Far too many parents who have lost too many loved ones. I have been to a lot of scenes where there has been a lot of death,” said Rybak.

Passing universal background checks will be more difficult than expected, with gun rights supporters calling it an unworkable infringement on their rights.

Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul) questioned that argument.

“Is that inconvenience something that is paramount and more important than saving what might be viewed as a very small number of lives?” Cohen said.

Kevin Vick, a licensed federal firearms dealer, countered, saying, “This isn’t a matter of inconvenience. We are inconvenienced in a number of ways for a number of good reasons that help protect citizens. This is a matter of right.”

Going into these hearings, many thought that background checks might be something lawmakers on both sides could agree on. But the National Rifle Association testified at the hearing and opposed it, saying it could lead to federal gun registration and then confiscation.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 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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