ST. PAUL, Minn. - A pair Democratic-backed bills calling for expanding background checks to all gun sales in Minnesota and temporary restrictions for gun owners by a court order were tabled in a House committee on a near-party line vote.
The GOP-majority Public Safety Committee tabled both bills, with opponents questioning whether it would be effective. Supporters argued it could keep potentially dangerous people from acquiring guns.
As lawmakers considered the legislation, hundreds of citizens on both sides of the issue packed the halls of the Capitol seeking to influence legislators.
Efforts to curb gun violence and gun access have gained momentum nationwide after the shootings last month in Florida that killed 17 students and teachers, but they face stiff opposition in Minnesota's GOP-controlled Legislature.
Chairman Brian Johnson says the bills will remain in the committee. He didn't say if they would be heard at a later date.
Democratic lawmakers and proponents say their efforts aren't over.
After the defeat, Rep. Dave Pinto of St. Paul, a prosecutor and chief author of the bills, said supporters are undeterred.
"The decision was made to put them on the shelf. There were comments made about them being taken off the shelf, and I think Minnesotans are going to demand that that happen," Rep. Pinto said.
"I’m choosing to be optimistic, based on the comments of the president, the activism of the students, and the crying need for measures that are reasonable, that keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people."
The gun violence protection order bill, often referred to as the "red flags" bill, would allow family members to petition the courts to temporarily remove firearms from an unstable gun owner, to protect that person from suicide and others from homicide.
Opponents argued it would force people to surrender their private property without constitutionally guaranteed due process. Republicans on the committee asserted that Minnesotans, under current law, can already have a mentally unstable family member committed to involuntary psychiatric treatment.
"We’re just glad that due process was respected today," Rob Doar, who heads the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, told KARE after the bills were tabled.
"And we look forward to being able to being part of that conversation to help identify people who need help, and ways to address that while addressing their rights."
Moms Demand Action Minnesota chapter leader Erin Zamoff says if lawmakers don't vote for stricter gun laws, "then we'll vote in people who do."