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Gov. Walz signs public safety bill, including new gun control measures

The new law includes universal background checks and red flag laws in the state of Minnesota.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Flanked by DFL lawmakers, law enforcement and gun violence survivors, Gov. Tim Walz signed a historic public safety measure into law on Friday which establishes universal background checks and red flag laws in Minnesota following passage in the DFL-controlled legislature.

"I understand our rights as Americans... but I refuse to allow extremists to define what responsible gun ownership looks like and to make this about the 2nd Amendment. This is not about the 2nd Amendment, this is about the safety of our children and our community," Walz said ahead of signing the bill.

"It has taken decades of organizing and rallies and marches and meetings, years of hope and years of heartbreak to get us here today," Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan added. "Public safety is just that. Safety for everyone. Because everyone deserves to be safe and valued and protected in their schools, in their homes, at the grocery store, at the movies, and throughout their communities."

Also in attendance for the bill signing was former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a shooting in 2011.

"Now is the time to come together, be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, Independents. We must never stop fighting. Fight! Fight! Fight!" Giffords said.

The package will also fund Minnesota's court system, state prisons, BCA crime labs, civil legal aid, community violence prevention efforts and many other DFL priorities under the public safety umbrella.

But it was the gun measures that drew the most attention at the capitol. 

The newly signed law will require that all private gun transactions be subjected to the same background checks that happen when someone buys a gun from a licensed firearm dealer. It would require those who want to sell a firearm to someone outside their immediate family to go to a gun dealer or local law enforcement to get a background check on the buyer. 

Republicans steadfastly opposed the bill, asserting that criminals and those intent on carrying out mass shootings will still find a way to get their hands on weapons. GOP opponents also criticized a provision that would require law-abiding firearms owners to keep a record of the background check for 10 years, in case law enforcement has to check it as part of a criminal investigation. 

"This is a bad bill that coddles criminals and infringes on the rights of gun-abiding gun owners," House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, a Cold Spring Republican, said during a debate before the bill's final passage.

The extreme risk protection order, or red flag law, will make it legal for family members or police to petition a judge for an order to temporarily remove firearms from a person who appears to be a threat to themselves or others. Supporters assert it will prevent murders and suicides, which are the most common forms of gun death in Minnesota. 

But Republicans and gun rights groups said those "red flag" bills only address the firearm instead of the person who is considered mentally unstable.

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