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Legislative notebook: Assault weapon ban not in new House gun bill

ST. PAUL -- It looks like the Minnesota Legislature will not ban assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition clips this year.

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, Thursday unveiled a bill wrapping together a series of gun initiatives he said he thinks can pass. Absent were controversial proposals to forbid ownership of so-called assault weapons and bullet magazines that hold large quantities.

The bill, written after five committee sessions of hearing testimony on gun issues, centers on requiring all gun owners to undergo background checks.

Paymar said he would fight any attempts to amend the bill to include the bans.

Since bills dealing with the two bans were not heard in a Senate committee, it is doubtful they would be in the final gun bill.

However, dropping those two provisions does not assure smooth sailing.

"I think there are some rural Democrats who are struggling with this issue," Paymar admitted.

He said he tried to craft legislation acceptable to rural lawmakers who support guns. The National Rifle Association opposes his bill and Paymar said he is not sure rural lawmakers can cross the NRA on this issue.

When Paymar released his bill, he was surrounded by police officers, but no sheriffs.

Police chief representatives said they support the universal background check that is required for anyone who wants to obtain a pistol or semi-automatic weapon. The only exception would be a weapon transfer within a family.

Police officials said background checks are needed.

"To effectively keep guns out of the wrong hands, we need a background check law that covers all sales of pistols and assault weapons," Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsey said. "Right now, we can't deny gun permits to people who are dangerous and people who can't pass a background check can just buy a gun at a gun show, on the Internet or at a flea market."

The bill would outlaw "straw purchases," when someone not allowed to possess a gun gets someone else to buy one for them.

The bill would require a police chief or sheriff to deny a gun permit to anyone who is a danger to himself or others.

Paymar did not know when the public safety committee he leads will consider his bill, but he said he did not plan extensive public testimony as was heard last month.