I was unable to attend the hearings on permitless carry and Stand Your Ground at the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. I watched much of the testimony streaming on the House website. It was the usual back and forth by gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates. Some things never change.
But things will change if several bills heard in the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee are given a yes vote. We may not know how individual members would vote on each bill since they were laid over to be likely included in a larger omnibus public safety bill. That is the way to hide controversial bills which may not pass through the entire body to pass anyway. And it’s a way to force a vote on unpopular policies. They can’t vote against something that also includes good stuff. This is politics and it’s the way it works. But we don’t have to accept it.
You know that real people have lost loved ones when firearms are used to kill them in senseless acts of violence. That is why we ( since I also have lost a sister in a domestic shooting) don’t want to make it easier for other families to lose loved ones like in the testimony of Rev. Rolf Olson, who I know personally. Here is his testimony ( from the above link) :
The new law would allow gun owners to legally carry weapons in public without a permit. It generated emotional testimony, including from Richfield Lutheran Church pastor Rev. Rolf Olson, whose daughter was murdered answering a Craigslist ad.
“People who couldn’t pass a criminal background check and have never learned how to handle a gun safely would be able to carry one in public,” Olson said. “How would that protect public safety?”
He brought a photo of his beautiful daughter and displayed it during his testimony. Did the legislators look at Katherine Olson’s photo? Did they care?
No answers, of course, from those who want the bill to pass. None of them have lost a loved one and several of them were packing heat at the hearing. Remember, there was not a public clamor for people who are not trained or go through a background check to carry loaded guns in public. It will simply NOT protect public safety. Rev. Olson knows about that.
If politicians are so afraid to take votes on individual bills or not allow amendments on bills, it just has to mean that they understand the bills are really not popular and their other members will not vote on them when they stand alone.
If you want to see the testimony, view it below.
The first bill heard yesterday was H.F. 0188 , Permitless Carry. Much of the testimony centered on the fact that it is a natural constitutional right to carry a gun so really no restrictions should be placed on those who get to carry a loaded, lethal weapon around with them in public. The “arguments” from my side of the issue were made for us by one of pro gun rights testifiers. He said that we would say the Heller Supreme Court decision had some language in it that puts some limits on the right to keep and bear arms. He would be right. But he asked the legislators to ignore this and remember that when we point out the some of the words of the late Justice Scalia, writing for the majority should be ignored. Just pay attention to the totality of what the bill really means. Here, in Scalia’s own words, is why the pro gun advocates want to ignore his words:
The late justice also more generally offered the belief that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” For instance, Scalia said concealment laws were permitted at the time of the Constitution’s ratification and should be permitted today.
The issue that Scalia left future courts to grapple with is what constitutes a protected weapon. He wrote that the Constitution protects weapons that could be carried and were in common use. What he didn’t say in the opinion—and what the court has deferred ruling on—is whether an AR-15 fits the bill for a common weapon. On one hand, it’s certainly not rare. There are more than a million in circulation. On the other hand, it’s not as ubiquitous as ordinary rifles and handguns. At some point, the John Roberts court will wrestle with the questions Scalia left unanswered, or the justices will leave it to the political process.
So far the gun rights advocates and their lapdog politicians in the Minnesota legislature have not suggested the open carrying of AR-15s but I’m sure they would like to- and most likely without a permit or training either. That’s the way it goes in the world of the “guys with the guns make the rules”. (Wayne LaPierre):
Common sense does allow for people being able to read the entire opinion, including the words of the conservative Justice Scalia. Just because you don’t like the words doesn’t mean he didn’t write them. And it doesn’t mean that having regulations and restrictions on some guns, who may carry them and where they may carry is unconstitutional.
I thought that one of the best questions was asked by Representative Hillstrom who wondered how officers would know if someone who was packing heat when asked or when pulled over in a car was legally able to carry if there was no permit to show. One of the bill’s authors, Professor Joe Olson, looked puzzled and really couldn’t answer the question. Isn’t that the main point? How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys with guns”? (Wayne LaPierre again) Carrying without permits means no mandatory training, no background check in order to get the permit, and allowing 18 year olds to now carry guns. What could possibly go wrong?
A University of Central Florida fraternity was suspended after one of its members was accused of holding a gun barrel to a student’s head as part of a pledge activity, according to documents released by the school.
The argument on the pro gun side was the usual- there has been no blood running in the streets since conceal and carry was passed in Minnesota in 2003 and 2005 ( repassed after Church lawsuit) except when there is. About one Minnesotan a day dies from a gunshot injury and this has been a pretty deadly year so far. Domestic homicides, gang and drug related shootings, and accidental discharges are among the many shootings that occur in our state, less regularly than in some states, but regular enough to be of concern. And suicide by gun accounts for 80% of the gun deaths, but never mind them. Conceal and carry holders can and do commit suicide by gun. Besides, why isn’t one senseless death one too many?
Minnesota gun permit holders have killed themselves or others as it turns out and also been denied for some pretty interesting and good reasons. That information was given to each legislator on the committee. And they might appeal their denial and win:
Since 2003, at least 299 people deemed too dangerous or otherwise unfit for a gun-carry permit were able to obtain them on appeal to the sheriff or a judge, a Star Tribune analysis shows.
In a system that prosecutors say is heavily weighted in favor of permit seekers, it’s nearly impossible to find out why the denials are overturned. State law protects the privacy of gun owners, prohibiting law enforcement from releasing any data that could identify them — even if they have criminal records.
In Hennepin County, one applicant had a felony conviction for manufacturing and dealing crack cocaine. Another in Ramsey County was suspected of shooting at a law enforcement officer. An Olmsted County applicant was a confirmed gang member. Each got a permit on appeal.
Yup. And those people could be carrying without a permit if the bill passes.
But never mind. Let’s proceed to make it easier for those folks to have and carry guns around in public.
I suppose we could have brought former Representative Gabby Giffords in to testify given that she was shot by a young man who shouldn’t have had a gun but was allowed to carry one anyway in Arizona, a permitless carry state. His mental illness wasn’t enough to adjudicate him and make him a prohibited buyer. So he was legally carrying a gun but with no apparent training and no permit to carry it because…. rights.
But why deal with actual cases? They don’t seem to matter when the corporate gun lobby comes to town to testify, as they did in Minnesota.
The argument that one has to get a Brady background check when buying a gun anyway so if you carry said gun, you should be good to go, was trotted out. Really? Where is common sense?
A new study shows that about 22% of gun sales go without a Brady background check. That is down from the 40% we have been using, lacking more current research. But finally, we have this figure from a Harvard study:
For years, politicians and researchers have estimated that as many as 40% of gun transfers are conducted without a background check – a statistic based on an extrapolation from a 1994 survey. Gun rights activists had decried that estimate as outdated and inaccurate.
The new survey, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the current proportion of gun sales conducted without a background check is about half of the figure cited by prominent Democratic gun control advocates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
It also found that gun owners in states that require background checks on all private gun sales were much less likely to report acquiring a gun without a background check than those in states with no universal background check law – a potential indication that efforts to boost screenings at the local level are succeeding, even in the absence of federal legislation. (…)
The new survey also found that in states that had passed universal screening laws by 1 July 2013, just 26% of gun owners said they had obtained a gun through a private sale without a background check, compared to 57% of purchasers who live in states without such requirements.
Overall, researchers found that half of guns transferred privately in all states within the past two years were obtained without a background check.
So a gun purchased without a background check through a private sale, a straw purchase, stolen or trafficked in some way can now be carried in public by its’ owner. Yes. It’s true. There is no way to make sure the person carrying can pass a background check if they don’t have to have one in order to get a permit.
And then, for the hearing on HF 0238, the ubiquitous Stand Your Ground bill, the gun lobby trotted out the discredited John Lott who runs around testifying in favor of the idea that more guns make us safer. And surely, people have the right not to retreat in a potentially dangerous situation but the bill would allow a situation perceived to be dangerous to shoot without retreating as has been in law. Shoot first and then find out if the person ( who may now be dead) was armed or meant bodily harm.
A testifier on my side, Rachael Joseph, testified about the shooting of her aunt Shelly, killed in 2003 in the Hennepin County Courthouse. I have included her story here in my blog before. But then she went on to talk about the danger to people of color and immigrants who, because they are considered the “other” by far too many people, are at risk when Stand Your Ground laws are enacted. We already know about Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Rachael wanted to talk about the recent shooting of 5 black men at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter gathering in 2015. Four white men drove to the Twin Cities with the idea in mind of causing trouble. They shot into the crowd, injuring 5 and then tried to claim that they themselves were in danger from unarmed people in the crowd.
This seemed to bother one of the legislators who claimed that people in the crowd instigated the shooting and therefore this case should apparently not be used. It must have been a surprise to him when a jury didn’t believe that and recently convicted one of the men involved in the shooting.
But never mind actual cases.
One of the more interesting and disturbing testimonies came from a young man who claimed to be a hunter and gun owner. He suggested that it was time to shoot the bad people and become a state of lynching again. It was so offensive that the crowd murmured and booed and one legislator interrupted to say he should stop his offensive remarks. Check it out:
One speaker, identifying himself as Ross Koon of West St. Paul, caused perhaps the greatest disturbance of the hearing when he went on a tirade in ostensible support of the “stand your ground” bill.
After talking about the need of frontiersmen to bear arms against “marauding savages” or defend against “a lawless uprising of our valuable workforce,” he added, “It was not lightly that we took to weapons and rope to ensure the purity of our nation.”
The tirade caused those in the audience to wonder aloud whether Koon was a plant or trying to be ironic, with others saying it was hard to tell these days.
Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, and Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, took the man seriously.
“Mr. Chair … this testimony is offensive,” Considine cut in over the speaker.
“Maybe to you but not to a lot of people in the room. We never shut down any of the opposition, we’re certainly not going to shut down … ” Cornish said.
“Marauding savages and talking about lynching black people?” Considine asked.
The speaker then took his tirade up a notch, saying “As we face hordes of illegals and so-called refugees, it is of the utmost importance that we be granted broad liberties to kill with impunity. … It’s time to kill the scary people. It’s time to make Minnesota lynch again.”
“All right … yeah that was rather offensive, but last time we had these hearings if we shut anybody down on either side we’d get booed and hissed, so I thought I’d just let him rave on,” Cornish said.
It turns out that he was using satire in his testimony and was not affiliated with either of the sides who signed up speakers for their remarks. His satire did make a point, however, even if we don’t like it. But the committee chair didn’t think his remarks were offensive to a lot of people in the room?
Should these bills pass the legislature and get to the Governor’s desk, we can hope for the sake of public safety that he won’t buy the arguments. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the NRA and corporate gun lobby are making the rounds to states all over our country pushing for these ridiculous laws.
We will have to think harder about what happens if our kids ring the wrong doorbell or run through someone’s yard after dark or try to sell candy to a neighbor. We will have to think harder about whether someone we see carrying a loaded holstered gun in public was actually trained to carry that gun, knows anything about guns or can pass a background check.
82% of Minnesotans support background checks on all gun sales. I can safely say that the public does not want these bills.
We will not be safer.