Under Minnesota law, you can sell a gun online with no background check, no questions asked, and no way to know if the buyer is a criminal, a terrorist, or just emerged from an extended stay in a psychiatric ward.
Last year, the group Everytown for Gun Safety began chronicling just how often this occurs. It monitored weapons for sale on Armslist.com, the Craigslist of the gun trade. Though licensed dealers are required to get background checks, Bob from Blaine is not, whether he’s peddling an antique pistol or a high-powered assault rifle.
Turns out Minnesota’s unlicensed sellers placed 28,818 ads on Armslist last year. Though the vast majority surely went to people who mean no harm, Everytown estimates that a few thousand of those guns are now in the hands of those can’t pass a background check or are barred from owning a gun.
As part of the nationwide study, the group posted Armslist ads in Ohio, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. More than 10 percent of the respondents couldn’t pass a background check. Translate that ratio to Minnesota, and it means easy access to guns for everyone from the serial stalker to the goober in his basement plotting glorious triumph in an imaginary race war.
Though 14 states now make checks mandatory on all sales, Minnesota isn’t one of them. You can thank your friends in the Republican Party.
Last year, Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) refused to allow so much as a hearing in his Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
In the House, Speaker Kurt Daudt barred any bill from receiving a vote if it didn’t have the blessing of the NRA. Which, naturally, meant there would be no vote at all.
But Daudt was deposed when a new Democratic majority pushed him aside this year. DFLers hope to pass legislation that would not only require checks on all purchases, but allow courts to temporarily confiscate the guns of someone thought to be a threat. It’s known as a “red flag law,” requiring that police or family members first petition the court. The idea is to prevent those shootings where the suspect raised alarm before acting, yet there was no legal means to stop him.
Such policy holds wide sway in Minnesota. According to a Star Tribune poll last year, a whopping 90 percent of Minnesotans favor background checks. Women are particularly keen on tightening the state’s laisse faire approach. Some 75 percent back raising the legal age of purchase and banning assault rifles.
Though Republicans still hold a two-seat majority in the Senate, they’ll have to face these same voters next year. With women abandoning the GOP in large numbers – especially in the suburbs – it might finally be time where the politician’s self-interest inadvertently coincides with the will of the people.