Latz tackles gun issue in the Minnesota Senate
Freeman supports effort
BY T.W. BUDIG - ECM CAPITOL REPORTER
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Latz is carrying legislation designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
“The whole package is really about prevention,” said Latz, flanked by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and House bill author Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St, Paul, at a Capitol press conference.
Freeman styled the provisions — one dealing with the mentally ill and guns — as a “practical prosecutor’s package.”
As part of the initiative endorsed by the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, the lawmakers propose defining certain domestic violence crimes, like assault by strangulation, as crimes of violence.
Felons convicted of gun possession under that designation could face a three- to five- year mandatory jail sentence, Freeman explained.
Another provision seeks to outlaw the possession of ammunition by felons. Too often, Freeman said, handguns will be tossed out of crowded cars, and authorities are unable to trace possession through fingerprints or DNA evidence.
“What gun?” the car occupants respond.
But under the proposed legislation, felons, if possessing ammunition, would be breaking the law even without the gun.
“In my view, that’s just as bad as carrying the gun,” Freeman said of felons with pockets full of bullets.
Another proposal could place juveniles in adult court the second time they’re caught packing a gun. Other provisions toughen penalties on those assisting someone in obtaining a gun who shouldn’t have one.
They’re going to be doing the same jail time as the person with the gun, Freeman said.
Latz, who will also be carrying legislation dealing with “straw” gun purchasers, or people buying a gun for someone else, plans to have gun legislation before his committee on Feb. 21-22.
He expects a variety of bills, including assault weapons bans and restrictions on gun magazine capacity to be heard.
“I don’t think it’s fair to tell people we’re not going to hear their bills,” Latz said.
Latz serves District 46, which includes all or part of St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Plymouth and Medicine Lake.
Lesch expects a “vigorous debate” at the Capitol. Latz views some of the legislation as addressing statewide issues. People are afflicted with mental health issues in Greater Minnesota as well as the metro, he said.
The mental health provision in the legislation, Latz said, is a small part of the overall issue of the mentally ill and guns. It prohibits those found to be mentally ill from possessing firearms, even if their commitment order is stayed by the court.
Currently, only mentally ill people ordered to a state facility are prohibited from possessing guns.
In discussing guns, the law and felons, Freeman indicated it is possible for a felon to appeal to the court record to have their record cleared — to have their gun possession rights restored, in effect — but that’s difficult to do, he explained.
County attorneys would actively oppose that move for a violent felon or one recently convicted, Freeman explained.
Tim Budig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org