Gun controls before lawmakers Monday, Senate investigation continues

ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Three new gun control measures are coming to the House floor for votes Monday night.

Those bills are likely to pass in the House where the DFL has a six-vote majority, but it’s one vote in the Senate, and an ethics investigation into Sen. Nicole Mitchell (DFL-Woodbury), could determine whether a lot of bills get passed.

DFL gun control bills in 2024 redefine safe storage, force gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm, increase punishment for straw purchases, and ban binary triggers — where a single pull fires two bullets.

Republicans argue they’re all putting a bigger burden on legal gun owners, and in the case of mandatory reporting, it’s a proposed law looking for a problem.

"I want to know what problem we’re trying to fix before we just randomly do a bill because other states have done it, too," said Rep. Paul Novotny, (R-Elk River).

A 2016 federal study showed more than 200,000 firearms are stolen every year in the U.S. and about 25% of those are never reported.

Debate on the mandatory reporting lasted more than three hours, with Republicans often posing hypotheticals where it would make criminals out of people victimized by thieves.

A few made a not-so-veiled reference to Sen. Mitchell’s arrest.

"I know it’s really hard to believe this hypothetical, but imagine that the burglar was a public figure who had high paid defense lawyers," said Rep. Harry Niska, (R-Ramsey), before he was stopped for breaking the rules of debate.

Legislators had wide agreement on stronger punishment for straw purchases, but not on the binary trigger ban, which is in the same bill.

The Burnsville shooter who killed three first responders used both straw purchases and a binary trigger.

The man who killed Fargo police officer Jake Wallin last year also used one.

"In describing the binary trigger used to murder a Fargo police officer, the North Dakota attorney general called the binary trigger 'purposeless,'" said Rep. Kelly Moller, (DFL-Shoreview).

The safe storage bill also has the gun lobby and Republicans on edge.

House Democrats say they expect to pass all three bills and after that, they can’t control what happens in the Senate.

"We are the House," Rep. Moller said. "We're going to continue to do the work of the House."

Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy said she's hopeful the bills can also pass in the Senate and, at least for now, she says Sen. Mitchell has a right to vote.