ST PAUL, Minn. — The gun control debate resumed at the State Capitol on opening day of the 2019 session. Supporters picked up right where the left off last spring, pressuring lawmakers to take action on at least two measures.
One would institute universal background checks that apply to gun shows and most private transactions or transfers of firearms. The other bill would institute a "Red Flags" law, allowing judges to temporarily remove guns from those who are determined to be in a mental health crisis.
Volunteer activists with the groups Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety lined the entrance to the House Chamber as legislators arrived, offering chocolate chip cookies and shouting, "Save our kids! Save our kids!"
"An average of 96 people die in gun violence every day in this country," Bob Mokos of Burnsville told KARE.
"We’ve got to stem this flow, and the best way to do it is criminal background checks and extreme risk protection orders which are 'Red Flag' laws."
A military veteran and NRA-certified sharpshooter, Mokos became a gun control advocate after his sister Diane was murdered in a random shooting in Chicago.
Mokos and fellow advocates are hopeful the bills will pass the House now that Democrats are in control of that chamber. The Senate remains a large question mark.
It's still controlled by Republicans, and those bills never received actual hearings in the Senate last year. They prefer to focus on school safety improvements and more in-school mental health services.
Gun control advocates are holding out hope a compromise can be struck.
"We are the only state with a divided state legislature and we’re the only ones to have that since 1914, so what happens here could mirror what happens in our federal legislature," said Austin Berger, a University of Minnesota student who became active in the movement after the Parkland, Florida tragedy last February.
Ben Dorr, of Minnesota Gun Rights, walked through the gun control crowds rolling video and challenging supporters.
"I'm trying to protect my kids too!" Door declared, while demonstrator tried to drown him out with more chanting.
The newly-minted House Speaker, Rep. Melissa Hortman, told reporters they time is right to pass something this year.
"We feel very strongly Minnesotans have made it loud and clear they are ready for gun violence prevention measures, common sense reforms," Hortman told reporters Tuesday.