Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Minn. House Eyes Limits to Gun Access, Ownership

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A half dozen police chiefs and sheriffs argued Tuesday in a packed Capitol hearing room that Minnesota isn't doing enough to protect against gun violence, kicking off three days of hearings on a host of new proposed limits on firearm ownership.

Hundreds of people swarmed the Capitol office building for the hearing, jamming the committee room and several overflow areas a day after President Barack Obama visited Minneapolis to tout his federal gun-control proposals.

"For a whole host of reasons, we're not keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who shouldn't have them," said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. He testified in support of a bill to require background checks for all gun purchases, cracking down on purchases at gun shows, online or with unlicensed, private dealers.

With Democrats controlling the Legislature, new limits on gun access have their best shot at the Capitol in a number of years. But the debate could expose divides between urban Democrats, whose constituents strongly support new limits, and rural Democrats from areas with high gun ownership and little support for serious curtailments on the right to own guns. Gov. Mark Dayton, also a Democrat, has not wholeheartedly embraced new gun control measures; he told the Star Tribune on Monday that any changes would need support from rural lawmakers in order to get his signature.

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