The short version:
This imported-from-New-York-City Bloomberg bill is a solution in search of a problem. As introduced, it ran roughshod over civil rights.
Since this bill isn’t going away — we don’t have the votes to kill it — we are working with our allies and the bill’s authors to transform it into something fair and constitutional. We’ve come a long way, and there are still more changes to come.
There’s another hearing Wednesday at 2:15 in Room 10 of the State Office Building, and if you can come to show your support for civil rights, we’d love to see you there.
The long version:
Last Thursday and today, the Minnesota Senate and House heard their separate versions of Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s “domestic violence” bill,HF2328/SF2639.
As originally sent over from New York City, the Bloomberg bill was a disaster: it violated the due process rights, gun rights, and property rights of accused citizens. Bloomberg’s organization cynically believed that Minnesota civil rights and gun rights supporters would be afraid to touch a bill related to domestic violence. After all, who wants to stand up for wife beaters?
But that’s not what it’s about. Civil rights are for everyone — even those accused of horrendous crimes.
The fact is, state and federal law already deals with this issue. This bill is comes from a need to be seen “doing something.”
But with anti-gun-rights DFLers in key committee positions, and their party controlling the House, Senate, and governor’s office, it is inevitable that some form of the bill will pass. Facing this reality, GOCRA and our allies in the Minnesota legislature had the tough task of removing the infringements in a way that the bill’s proponents would accept.
In New York or California, this may not have been possible. But this is Minnesota, where citizens’ voices are actually heard — and listened to — and where lawmakers on both sides of the issue are willing to talk, to listen, and to find common ground.
Because of your voices, and your willingness to flood the capitol with maroon shirts to support civil rights (and probably because this is an election year), the anti-rights faction can’t simply shove a truly bad bill through. Working with our allies — and our adversaries — we were able to craft language that fully protects civil rights while making the domestic violence prevention advocates feel that they were making a difference.
Photo courtesy of Mitch Berg’s Shot in the Dark blog
In the Senate
After making civil rights supporters wait in the hallway for more than six hours, the Bloomberg bill’s author of record, Sen. Ron Latz, made a few small but beneficial amendments to the bill on Thursday night, which limited the transfer of firearms to alleged abusers where a judge had made a specific, narrow finding of substantial danger to the household member seeking the order.
Following GOCRA attorney David Gross’s testimony, and after discussion with the committee’s legal counsel, Sen. Latz inserted clarifying language that limited the order for transfer to parties who had received due process of law, not just an accusation.
As a result of our discussions, Sen. Latz also testified to the committee that he intended to support House amendments allowing for “third parties,” such as friends or family, to take physical possession of the guns ordered removed from the accused, providing an alternative to the forced confiscation and imposition of “reasonable” fees that would quickly exceed the value of the guns.
While we’re not a big fan of “we had to pass it to see what’s (going to be) in it,” Sen. Latz’s comments on the record were a good sign that there would actually be material improvements to the bill. Because lawmakers rarely make promises like this, on the record, without following through, we expect that Sen. Latz will keep the promises he made to the committee.
In the House
The puppet-masters at Bloomberg HQ in New York would have loved to dictate terms to the local yokels in flyover country. But Rep. Dan Schoen, the House bill’s author of record (who is not just a lawmaker, but also a professional law enforcement officer), wanted to ensure that law-abiding citizens were protected, and that due process rights were respected. He understood the concerns that we and our House allies expressed to him about the original bill.
This morning in the House committee hearing, Rep. Schoen introduced an “author’s amendment” that addressed almost all of our concerns. It respected due process rights by limiting the orders of transfer to respondents who had already gotten their day in court, and where the judge found a “credible threat” to the physical safety of the petitioner.
The amendment also gives the respondent the right to transfer the firearms to a “third party,” as Sen. Latz told the Senate committee he wanted in the bill, and limited the orders to respondents who had had their day in court.
What comes next:
There are still a few problems with the bill as passed out of the House Public Safety committee:
- The bill lacks protections for the privacy of the “third party” participants
- It requires the third party’s affidavit to list the guns transferred by make, model and serial number — effectively registration (we believe that this data needs to removed, or at least placed in a sealed court record)
- The bill needs to provide the respondent and third party with a reasonable period of time to both comply with the order, and provide the notarized affidavit to the court
The House bill will be heard tomorrow in the House Judiciary Committee:
Wednesday, March 26
House Judiciary Committee
Room 10, State Office Building
Rep. Schoen told the committee that he will have additional amendments; we are hopeful that they will address our remaining concerns.
If you can come, wear a maroon shirt (especially a GOCRA shirt), and try to arrive by about noon to ensure that you get a seat in the hearing room.