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MN House votes to keep guns away from domestic abusers

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ST. PAUL — A compromise between gun supporters and those who want to protect domestic abuse victims won overwhelming approval in the House on Wednesday as representatives voted to keep guns out of the hands of abusers.

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“We know that the presence of a gun during a highly volatile situation (makes the likelihood) six times greater of that situation resulting in a homicide,” Rep. Dan Schoen, D-St. Paul Park, said before representatives voted 121-15 for his bill.

A similar bill awaits Senate action.

The Schoen bill requires guns to be surrendered by people convicted of child and domestic abuse, as well as those who are subjects of a protection order that may be issued before trial. In either case, guns would be given up only after court actions.

“Parties do have due process,” Schoen said. “They do have to stand in front of a judge. They do get the ability to argue their side of the story.”

A gun owner would not give up ownership, and people who give up guns could get them back. Guns could be surrendered to law enforcement agencies, third parties or federally licensed gun dealers.

Gun rights supporters and opponents rose to praise the Schoen bill.

Rep. Dave Dill, D-Crane Lake, said that one of the dearest rights people in his northeastern Minnesota district cherish is one allowing them to keep guns. But at the same time, he added, “domestic violence is not acceptable.”

Rep. John Ward, D-Baxter, said he is a strong supporter of the federal Second Amendment right to carry arms, but the bill “is going to save lives.”

The House’s most outspoken gun supporter, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said his initial thought was to oppose the Schoen proposal. However, he added, it can take a long time to change laws, so he became involved in negotiations to make sure gun rights were protected.

Cornish said his side got “just about every wish we had to change the original bill.”

Schoen, a Cottage Grove police officer, said the bill matches federal law.

On another bill, the House unanimously approved allowing courts to order global positioning tracking units to be placed on some domestic abuse suspects. A law allowing that expired early this year, and the new bill extends the authority.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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