How Minnesota compares to other states on gun laws

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Minnesota earned a grade of “C” for the strength of its gun laws as part of the 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard compiled by the California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The national law center focuses on gun violence prevention and promoting smart gun legislation as a way to address the country’s gun violence epidemic. It notes that 117,000 Americans are shot each year and 33,000 die annually as the result of gun violence.

In its annual surveys, it has found a correlation — states with stronger laws have fewer gun deaths per capita than states with weaker laws.

California ranked number one on the list of the states with the strongest gun laws, followed by Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. All of those states earned a grade of “A minus.”

For several years California has required all gun sales to be processed through a licensed dealer and buyers to undergo background checks. It also bans most assault weapons and prohibits the sale or transfer of large capacity ammunition magazines, according to the gun law state scorecard.

It was also the first state in the nation to require handgun microstamping, which would allow law enforcement to match a cartridge case found at a crime scene with the person who bought the gun. Each bullet fired by the gun is microstamped with the make, model and serial number of the firearm.

California also has a Gun Violence Restraining Order law that allows family members or law enforcement to petition the court for the restraining order when there is sufficient evidence that an individual might harm his or herself or other people. When the restraining order is in place, that person is barred from buying or possessing firearms or ammunition. Law enforcement can also remove firearms and ammunition the person already has in their possession. It went into effect Jan. 1.

Kansas got the worst score in 2015. It recently enacted a law that allows people to carry hidden, loaded guns in public. It also does not require a background check for unlicensed gun sales.

Minnesota ranked 43rd among the states with the highest level of gun deaths and 12th among states for the strength of its gun laws.

Minnesota doesn’t require background checks on the private sale of firearms between unlicensed parties. Minnesota gun laws highlighted by the center include child access prevention requirements for gun owners, banning firearm possession by certain convicted criminals and domestic abusers and regulating the possession and sale of some semiautomatic military-assault weapons.

Minnesota Rep. Kim Norton, a DFLer from Rochester, unveiled a gun safety bill Jan. 28 for the upcoming legislative session designed to reduce accidental deaths, suicides and impulse shootings.

The bill calls for universal background checks on gun sales to close a loophole in state law that currently allows gun sales to be made without background checks at gun shows by unlicensed dealers or via online sales.

The proposal also increases the waiting period for the issuance of a transfer permit for a gun from seven to 28 days and imposes new safety requirements for storing guns and training requirements for gun buyers.

“Without safeguards like the ones under this bill, it is only a matter of time before the next accident, injury or death caused by a gun in the wrong hands, and it is simply unacceptable to do nothing,” Norton said. “While President Obama’s executive order was a good step forward, states like Minnesota need to take action to address preventable tragedies.”

Bryan Strawser, executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said Norton’s bill is “filled with failed gun control strategies of the past.”

Instead, he suggested other remedies for dealing with gun violence, including improving access to mental health services, dealing with under-sentencing of firearm crimes in the courts and increasing funding for urban police forces.

“In the San Bernardino and Colorado Springs shootings, the shooters passed a background check,” he said. “Therefore imposing universal background checks as Rep. Norton proposes to do in this bill would do nothing but impose an undue burden on law-abiding gun owners.”

Norton, however, said an “overwhelming majority” of Minnesotans support universal background checks.

“A failure of the Legislature to act on an issue as common sense as this one, which ensures everyone who purchases a gun is able to pass a background check, fails the victims and families of these heartbreaking occurrences,” she said. “It’s incomprehensible to me that what amounts to the minor inconvenience of requiring a background check for every gun sale or transfer is so objectionable in the wake of what’s happened.”

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Minnesota’s gun law grade: C

The center indicated Minnesota could improve its score by requiring background checks on private sales, limiting the number of guns a person can buy at one time and requiring the removal of firearms from the scene of a domestic violence incident, among other things. For more information visit www.gunlawscorecard.org.

Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s 2015 Gun Law State Score Card