ST. PAUL — A key Republican lawmaker said he is open to holding meetings on gun control proposals and other public safety measures following a pair of deadly shootings in Texas and Ohio.
State Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, in a letter Friday, Aug. 9, said Republicans in the state Senate were pained by the deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend. Limmer, the chair of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee, said he would consider holding hearings before lawmakers are set to return for the 2020 legislative session in February.
"We too are moved by the recent tragic events in El Paso and Dayton that took the lives of so many innocent civilians," Warren said in a letter to state Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park. "That being said, I am not against the idea of interim hearings of the Judiciary Committee regarding public safety issues. I am aware of your bills and several other proposals from Senators regarding this topic."
The letter comes in response to one Latz sent earlier in the week requesting that Limmer hold hearings on a pair of gun control proposals that failed to pass earlier this year. Latz and Gov. Tim Walz called on Senate Republicans to return to St. Paul to hold hearings on a bill that would require background checks at the point of transfer of a pistol or semiautomatic military-style assault weapon and another that would allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger.
"Time is of the essence as we inevitably move closer to the next mass shooting," Latz wrote in the Tuesday letter. "We cannot wait until next February to discuss gun violence as we must act now to mitigate and combat gun violence in our state and country."
But Limmer noted that the pair of bills failed to receive the support needed to be added to a larger spending bill in a conference committee and he asked whether they'd been altered in the months since.
"The red flag and expanded background checks failed to receive majority support from the conference committee that day and I wonder if there is anything new in your proposals and testimony that would produce a different result," Limmer wrote. "As I've said consistently regarding gun legislation — I am most interested in ideas that will actually produce results and have broad bipartisan support."
The Minnesota House earlier this year approved the gun control measures as part of a larger spending bill and Walz said he was prepared to sign them into law. But they never reached his desk because the Senate conference committee voted to remove them from the Public Safety and Judiciary spending bill.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, earlier in the year said he'd put the bills up for a hearing and a vote if the House would pass them as standalone bills. Instead, Democratic House leaders added the measures to the budget bills, saying they stood a better chance at moving through the Capitol that way.
In the days since the Texas and Ohio shootings killed 31 and left dozens injured, gun control advocacy groups have hosted rallies in Duluth, Rochester and St. Paul calling for action from lawmakers.
Walz has said he would call a special session if lawmakers could agree to proposals that could reduce gun-related violence in Minnesota.