New Bill May Loosen Minnesota's Gun Permitting Requirements

By KBJR News 1

February 21, 2011 Updated Feb 21, 2011 at 7:38 PM CDT

St. Paul, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) -- A bill, making its way through Minnesota's legislature, aims to loosen background check requirements for those who want to buy guns.

If passed...citizens won't have to wait for a state background check to purchase a firearm.

Authorities would rely only on federal checks.

The bill has some people concerned as LeAnn Wallace reports.

If you want to purchase a handgun or semiautomatic military–style assault weapon in Minnesota...you have to first acquire a Permit–to–Purchase.

Those permits are obtained by filling out an application and submitting it to local police departments.

"It's not inconvenient, and this gives the local chief of police and sheriff an ability to talk to people once a year."

Representative Steve Drazkowski recently introduced a bill in the house that would repeal Minnesota's current state background check purchasing requirement.

Some Duluth lawmakers oppose skipping that step.

"I voted against that in committee."

Representative Kerry Gauthier says the state background check does a better job of flagging people with mental illness than do federal checks.

"In the city of Bloomington, testimony was, last year alone 37 people were denied a permit because of mental illness, that they were a threat to society with a gun, and when I talked to Chief Ramsey he said we had at least that in Duluth so it's an important step that we're going backwards on."

Proponents of the bill argue that federal gun laws already do an efficient job of preventing people with a history of violence or mental illness from obtaining firearms.

Senator Tom Bakk says he's not convinced.

"Unless I could be assured the federal law really doesn't have cracks in it, I would support leaving the state law where it is."

Joan Peterson, with "Protect Minnesota," an organization that aims to prevent gun violence, says passage of the bill would only make it easier for guns to get into the hands of people who should not have them.

"To me this is a system that's worked really well in Minnesota. It's not broken, why do we want to fix something that's not broken?"

If the bill passes, the new law would go into affect August 1st.