GUN LAW HEARINGS: Overflowing crowd at Minnesota Capitol - KMSP-TV

GUN HEARINGS: Overflowing crowd at Minnesota Capitol on Day 1

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Hearing is packed for gun safety hearing at Minnesota House. Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News. Hearing is packed for gun safety hearing at Minnesota House. Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News.
Tie and button of Rep. Tony Cornish at hearing on gun safety legislation. Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News. Tie and button of Rep. Tony Cornish at hearing on gun safety legislation. Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Minnesota lawmakers opened debate on a handful of gun control proposals Tuesday at the State Capitol.

The House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee will look at expanding background checks, banning military-style weapons, a limit on magazine capacities and allowing school workers to carry weapons.

A huge crowd gathered outside the House hearing room, forcing some spectators into an overflow room and filling the basement. Gun rights supporters packed every available seat in three separate rooms.

THE BILLS

The committee took up six bills on Tuesday, but there was only time to tackle two of them in the morning. At issue are a series of bills to strengthen background checks and restrict the mentally ill from buying firearms.

Current state law allows police chiefs to reject gun purchase permits to those who have been legally committed to a mental treatment facility; however, Democratic Rep. Michael Paymore's bill would broaden that criteria to include voluntary confinement or hospitalization.

"There are loopholes, in this state and across the country, in gun shows and Internet sales and private sales that need to be plugged," Paymar, who represents St. Paul, said.

Extending the rejection criteria to is something Rogers Police Chief Mark Reahen told lawmakers he needs.

"What about the individual in our city, where we've had 60 calls in the last 12 months where they're hearing voices through walls, they've put tinfoil up on their windows?" he asked. "They're convinced that God is telling them to buy a firearm and do things, yet they've never been committed to an institution."

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING...

The prospect of changing gun laws brought out the voices of droves of disparate voices, ranging from victims to skeptics.

"My father lived the American dream but died the American nightmare." - Sami Rahamim, son of Accent Signage Systems founder Reuven Rahamim

Opponents argue the bills could make the mentally ill second-class citizens who would permanently lose gun rights.

"I look at this and I see an egregious, an egregious attack on the Second Amendment." - Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker), a paramedic, speaking about a proposed bill on tighter gun background checks

The debate has brought together what may appear to be strange bedfellows on that front. Mental health advocates have sided with gun rights supporters to defeat the bill, and the Mental Health Alliance said it is concerned the stigma such a move could create.

WHAT'S NEXT?

The committee chairman hopes the three days of hearings will help craft a larger gun violence prevention bill in Minnesota. No votes on specific gun proposals are planned at the Capitol this week.

Gov. Mark Dayton says any changes to the state's gun laws will need support from rural Minnesota lawmakers to earn his endorsement and signature.

It's clear that the issue of Minnesota's gun laws is divided not down party lines as much as rural vs outstate culture, but some lawmakers insist there is a better way to tackle the issue.

"If we want to arm teachers, if we want to have armed security guards, if we want to put shooters at the scene who can actually do something, Legislatures are saying 'no' and pretending these worthless gun bills are going to do any good -- which they won't," said Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, of Good Thunder.

Cornish, who is also a police chief, proudly wore his NRA tie to the hearing.

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