By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Senate Republicans on Tuesday proposed 10 specific bills they say would limit gun violence around the state, but the proposals are focused significantly on Minneapolis, St. Paul and light-rail transit.

Democratic legislators have responded to the proposals by saying they would have little impact. They believe the only way to curb gun violence is to pass their proposals that would expand background checks and create a red flag law.

These dueling sets of proposals to curb gun violence show that both sides at the Capitol are concerned about gun violence, but the proposed solutions still reflect the deep divide on how to attack the problem.

The Republican group — which includes Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka among other Republican senators — said it seeks to “maximize the effectiveness of existing laws, encourage local governments to add more police on streets, trains and busses, and close loopholes to give prosecutors and judges better tools to take dangerous criminals off the street.”

Among the items highlighted by Senate Republicans on Tuesday: increasing the penalty for transferring a firearm to a known criminal from a gross misdemeanor to a felony; amending state law to clarify that a drive-by shooting is any shooting taking place from a moving vehicle; and prohibiting mayors, city council members and other similar government representatives from disarming peace officers if they’re not currently under investigation or subject to disciplinary action.

Also among the bills is a requirement for Minneapolis and St. Paul to use 10% of their local government aid funding to hire more police officers until they reach the national average of 3 officers for every 1,000 residents. Republicans argued that currently both cities are closer to 2 officers per 1,000.

“If Minneapolis and St. Paul can not adequately protect their citizens, we’re going to help them do that. We all have citizens and constituents that go to these two cities. We need vibrant inner cities. They need to be safe,” Sen. Roger Chamberlain said.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also responded to the police force proposal.

“Local government aid is designed to help, not hamstring,” Frey said. “It’s disappointing that none of the state legislators carrying this bill have reached out to discuss how we could work together.”

The City of St. Paul also issued a similar sentiment.

Light-rail crime is another point of focus for the Republican-backed bills. One of them would require the Metropolitan Council to submit an annual report to the legislature reporting on transit safety, and would also require cameras on light-rail trains and encourage an increased police presence.

The Senate DFL issued a statement in the wake of the GOP announcement, saying that the package of bills falls “dramatically short of DFL-supported legislation that was introduced in the Senate and passed in the House several weeks ago.” They say the bills will do litt.e

“They are milquetoast in comparison to what we should be passing,” Sen. Ron Latz said.

Democrats focused on the paucity of background checks as part of Republicans’ plans regarding violence. Democrats’ plans have attracted a large group of gun control supporters.

“Nine out of 10 Minnesotans support expanded background checks but instead of passing them, or emergency risk protection orders that would keep Minnesotans safe, Republicans are pretending to pass ‘bipartisan’ bills that we know simply won’t do enough to prevent gun violence,” Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent said.

The bills are scheduled to be heard in committee this week.

Expect to hear these dueling views on how to handle gun violence for the rest of the legislative session, as it’s an issue that is likely to factor in legislative re-elections this fall. All 201 members of the legislature are up for election in November.

Esme Murphy

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