By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — A bill supporting universal background checks for Minnesota gun purchases is in trouble at the Capitol — despite a new poll showing overwhelming statewide support.

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The Star Tribune/Minnesota Poll found that 72 percent of those surveyed support universal checks while 25 percent oppose them.

The author of the bill is the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St.Paul) and he is not even sure he has enough votes to get it out of his own committee.

“Universal background checks is the centerpiece of our bill,” said Paymar.

Universal background checks would expand checks to include the estimated 40 percent of guns sold privately and at gun shows.

Last month, Paymar held highly charged hearings into the bill and other gun bills.

“You would think as Chair of the Committee and Chief Author of the bill, I would be able to get this bill right out of committee, especially with the polling data that shows Republican, Democrats, rural and metro support, but right now it looks very close,” said Paymar.

Paymar believes the fear of the NRA has legislators worried they will be targeted.

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“They are basically threatening legislators that they will not be supported in their next election if they support this bill,” said Paymar.

Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder) is the legislature’s most outspoken opponent of universal background checks.

“There is a lot of opposition,” said Cornish. “I think the survey is bogus. If you have legislators who believe that 70 or 80 percent were in favor of this, you would think they would vote for it.”

Cornish says he believes the Star Tribune’s poll is flawed because it did not ask those surveyed about the cost to consumers and to local government of expanded background checks.

He believes the bill is destined to fail.

“If it makes it out of Paymar’s committee, it will die in another committee and if it does and they try and bring it to the floor on a procedural vote, I think we have enough votes to stop it there also,” said Cornish.

The Star Tribune’s Political Editor Patricia Lopez says the paper stands by their poll.

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The universal background check bill must get out of a legislative committee by March 15 or it will not survive. Paymar says he plans to call for a committee vote next week.

Esme Murphy