ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gun control is dead for the session if House Democrats wrap two of their priority bills for addressing gun violence into an umbrella public safety budget bill, the top Republican in the Minnesota Senate said Thursday.
Majority Leader Paul Gazelka made the statement to reporters after House Speaker Melissa Hortman and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said that the larger bill would incorporate a measure for background checks on gun transfers and a “red flag” bill that would allow relatives or police to ask a judge for an “extreme risk protection order” allowing for temporary confiscation of guns from people deemed an imminent threat to themselves or others.
The House leaders hope to make the gun control proposals harder for senators to reject by bundling them with other measures in the must-pass budget bill.
“The Senate cannot kill gun violence prevention by refusing to hear the bills in committee or refusing to take action on the Senate floor,” Hortman said in a statement. “We are bringing gun violence prevention measures to the negotiating table.”
But Gazelka said that won’t work and it could foul efforts to end the legislative session by the May 20 deadline.
“That is very dangerous, because in the end those are bills that we’re not going to support on the Senate side, and they’re not going to go anywhere,” he said.
Gazelka said earlier in the session that he didn’t think his caucus would take up gun control at all. But he recently said the Senate would give the two bills committee hearings if the House passed them first as standalone bills. He never guaranteed that the Senate would pass them. And he also warned then that Republicans would bring up pro-gun measures that House Democrats don’t like as part of that effort.
But he said Thursday that it doesn’t look like House Democrats are interested.
“They chose not to, which means they’re basically dead — those gun bills are dead,” Gazelka said.
The majority leader added that he’s still willing to give the bills hearings if the House gives them simple up or down votes, “but we’re not going to play games with it if we’re not going to have an open conversation.”