Minnesota Democrats who swept into power this week are promising new gun safety measures after a mass shooting in California that left 12 people dead.
Gov.elect Tim Walz and incoming House Speaker Melissa Hortman both said they would seek such proposals. Hortman said gun issues played a big role in Democrats flipping 16 seats in the Minneapolis suburbs and re-taking control of the House.
“Certainly I think that Minnesotans want us to take action,” she said. “We heard about that in the election.”
State Rep. Kurt Daudt, the current House speaker who will become minority leader in January, downplayed the role that gun safety issues played on the campaign trail. Instead, he said the election was largely out of his members’ control.
“This is a tough one. It’s tough to understand,” Daudt said of his party’s losses. “I don’t think voters were sending a message (to us), other than ‘We don’t like what’s going on in Washington, D.C. right now.'”
Daudt said gun buyers already must pass a background check in Minnesota, whether they purchase a gun at a store or a gun show. He said it would be very difficult to regulate private-party sales, such as between family members.
After suffering losses in the suburbs, Daudt will be in charge of a caucus made up of lawmakers from Greater Minnesota.
“My members are the rural ones now. We’re the members, frankly, that are engaged in that rich tradition of hunting and gun ownership in rural Minnesota. And we want to make sure we protect the rights of Minnesotans to continue to participate in that rich tradition,” he said.
Walz, a gun owner who was once endorsed by the National Rifle Association, said this week that he would seek laws on universal background checks and tougher domestic protective orders.
He said he thought the bills could get bipartisan support in the Democratic House and the Republican-controlled Senate, referencing several mass shootings over the past year.
“It’s just too many of those (shootings),” Walz said during a news conference in his transition office inside the Capitol. “We need to try to take some actions that the science behind this shows we can make some reductions.”
Walz referred to the proposals he was seeking as “common sense.”
“Now is the time for action,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka didn’t rule out support for gun safety measures, though he didn’t name any in particular that he would get behind.
Last year, two Republican senators endorsed a background check bill that ultimately failed. The GOP has a tenuous hold on the Senate, with just a 34-33 majority.
“There is some openness to finding some areas that we agree on,” he said.