Biden's action on guns divides Minnesota delegation

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Hunter Woodall, Star Tribune
·4 min read
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WASHINGTON – A new spate of gun control actions from President Joe Biden on Thursday further underlined the deep partisan divide on the issue in Minnesota.

Calling gun violence in the United States an "epidemic" and an "international embarrassment," Biden rolled out a series of executive actions ranging from a proposed rule that he said would treat homemade "ghost guns" as firearms under the Gun Control Act, to pushing for widespread red flag laws. Minnesota is one of 31 states without a red flag law, which allows family members and those in law enforcement to ask a court to temporarily prevent someone who is a danger to themselves or others from having access to a gun.

"It is only through strong executive action by President Biden that the American people are finding any protections from this deadly epidemic of gun violence," Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said in a statement. She said during the last decade, "Republicans in Congress and the NRA have killed every piece of federal common-sense gun legislation."

Biden will likely need to win over some GOP members if he wants to make lasting gun law changes. If not, he risks having to lean on the executive authority that Republicans in Minnesota's delegation quickly attacked him for using.

"The President is taking these unilateral steps because he knows that he does not have congressional support to impose measures that would violate Americans' right to keep and bear arms, without due process," U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn said in a statement on Thursday.

Hagedorn's Republican colleagues in Minnesota's delegation made similar statements. "Today, the Biden Administration made the first move in implementing their anti-gun agenda," said U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, while U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer said "based on what's been proposed today, criminals will still have unlawful access to firearms and law abiding gun owners will instead suffer the consequences of these unconstitutional orders."

When Biden's planned actions were reported this week, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus slammed the Democrat's approach and emphasized they would "explore litigation options with our allies to oppose this overreach by President Biden."

In the Minnesota Legislature, a red flag bill and an expansion of background checks on all firearm transfers — two top DFL priorities — have not advanced in the state House or Senate this year. Minnesota Republicans have also proposed "stand your ground" legislation to broaden legal protections on citizens who use deadly force to defend themselves, but proponents of the bill are not optimistic it will pass this year.

Other actions announced Thursday by the Biden administration include an effort to focus money on community violence intervention programs. Biden is also nominating a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms who works as a senior policy adviser at the gun control organization co-founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

"I think the president is on the right track and I think the president has also called on the Congress to engage and to have a further conversation about this," said U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat. "I certainly support the president's executive actions here today."

Biden also made it clear that he thinks more needs to be done on guns, with Thursday's remarks serving as a new step in what is likely to be a defining topic for Biden's presidency. That call was further boosted by Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who pointed to her legislative efforts focused on "preventing abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers from buying a gun."

"It is past time for Congress to implement meaningful reforms to address gun violence and protect communities across the country," the Democrat said in a statement.

The roll out from the White House comes as Congress has failed to send major gun legislation to the president. Background check legislation passed the House earlier this year, but faces a difficult path forward in the Senate. Despite Democrats holding narrow control in the chamber, the threat of the filibuster means gun measures will likely need unanimous Democratic support and 10 GOP votes to advance on the Senate floor, which is unlikely.

While U.S. Sen. Tina Smith supports Biden's executive actions, she said it doesn't let Congress "off the hook for taking action ourselves."

"It's unacceptable that Republicans in the United States Senate continue to hold up what I consider to be common sense gun safety legislation," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559