Questions of gun possession an over-arching theme before Senate Judiciary Committee

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Exactly who should make the call — if anyone — in deciding questions of gun possession remained an over-arching theme in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday (Feb. 22).

“Martin Luther King had a lot of negative contacts with the police,” Greg Dahlstrom of Lakeville said of one gun bill granting law enforcement more leeway in revoking a concealed carry permit.

The judiciary committee ploughed through a handful of gun-related bills.

Although committee Chairman Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, placed on the agenda a resolution authored by Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, that urged the President and Congress not to violate the Second Amendment — the legislation sparked a spat on the Senate floor Thursday where Nienow charged Latz of refusing to hear the bill.

Latz countered Nienow saying he never asked for a hearing — no hearing ultimately took place. Nienow said he has a record of his staff on Feb. 7 requesting a hearing. Nienow introduced a motion Thursday to withdraw his bill, Senate File 552, from the Judiciary Committee and to send it to general orders. On a roll call vote, Nienow’s motion failed, 38-26.

Neither Nienow, nor a bill co-author, appeared on the resolution’s behalf.

Nienow had been in St. Paul watching the hearing, he said in a phone call, but had gotten called away on family matters.

Other Republicans, such as Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Sen. David Brown, R-Becker, backed-off gun-related legislation that they had been carrying.

Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, saw her legislation changing state law pertaining to perpetrators of crimes on violence having their gun possession rights restored go before the committee.

Currently, such a perpetrator, once out of prison, could have their gun possession rights restored by a judge if the applicant can show good cause.

Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, had a gun bill before a Senate committee on Friday (Feb. 22). (Photo by T.W. Budig)
Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, had a gun bill before a Senate committee on Friday (Feb. 22). (Photo by T.W. Budig)

But Goodwin — who explains her zeal for changing state law resulting from a shootout in Columbia Heights some years ago — proposes to require a 10-year waiting period before a petition to the court by a violent offender could be brought.

She proposes a five-year waiting period for those found guilty of certain drug crimes and motor vehicle theft as long as weapons were not used in the crime.

“We are protecting the public,” Goodwin said of changing the law.

Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance President Joe Olson, a law professor, argued Minnesota recognizes that crimes have a hierarchy of severity and suggested Goodwin’s approach ignored that.

“I don’t believe we need to micromanage the courts,” he said.

But Goodwin expressed frustration over what she perceived as a “disingenuous” position by opponents, people claiming to want to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

That’s all she’s trying to do, Goodwin argued.

“And then we get push-back from it,” she said.

Latz had two bills before the committee.

One bill would have health care workers providing information to patients about a voluntary registry they could join making them illegible to purchase a gun for apply for a gun permit.

It authorizes the police to store the surrendered guns and ammunition of those voluntarily joining the registry.

To get their possessions back from the police would require getting off the registry and a background check.

The bill provides that data gathered under the registry provision of the bill would be private data.

Another bill Latz is carrying provides that a person transferring a pistol or military-style assault weapon to a person who legally shouldn’t have them would be banned from possession firearms for rest of their life.

It would make wrongly reporting to the police that a firearm had been lost or stolen a gross misdemeanor and a felony if repeated or done while knowing or having reason to believe the gun would be used in a crime of violence.

Rabbi Michael Latz appeared before his brother's committee testifying on behalf of one of Sen. Ron Latz's gun bills.  Afterward the senator said he wanted his brother for a speech writer. (Photo by T.W. Budig)
Rabbi Michael Latz appeared before his cousin’s committee testifying on behalf of one of Sen. Ron Latz’s gun bills. Afterward the senator said he wanted his brother for a speech writer. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

One of those testifying before the committee was Latz’s cousin, Rabbi Michael Latz.

Rabbi Latz recalled a shooting incident on the West Coast and holding the hand of a shooting victims whose bullet wound was large enough to permit the entry of a child’s hand.

No, the legislation the before the Legislature isn’t perfect, Rabbi Latz argued.

“(But) I would argue that doing nothing is moral impotence,” he said.

Lawyers on the committee, Latz and Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, debated the relationship between “rights” and the rightful role of government.

Government officials, Latz argued, restrict the rights of individuals all the time — the guy who wants to add an addition to the garage but is turned down the by city council.

“This is way different than if you’re going to apply for a feedlot permit,” Ortman retorted.