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Senate showdown set on gun issue
Opponents of a bill that would change the state's handgun permitting laws have conceded they can't stop permits from becoming easier to get. Supporters of the bill have been lobbying to change current law for seven years because they say local law enforcement has too much authority in denying permits. The Senate will take up the House version of the bill on Monday, after opponents failed Thursday to bring up a version of the measure they could modify. Because of parliamentary maneuvering by the House, the Senate will only be allowed to vote up or down on the bill without making changes.

St. Paul, Minn. — Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington, says after years of frustration it's all but certain the so-called concealed carry legislation will be sent to the governor's desk and signed into law. She says several rural DFLers will join the Republican minority to provide enough support for passage on Monday. "It's a good feeling to get the last vote on it," she said.

Bill sponsor Pariseau and other supporters say the bill would require local sheriffs to issue handgun permits to almost any law-abiding Minnesotan over the age of 21. It would forbid guns in certain areas like schools, but would generally give permit holders wide permission to carry their weapons.

Senate DFL leadership made one last attempt to have their voice heard on the controversial bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Farmington, in the House. They conceded defeat when their attempt to bring up a pared down version on the bill failed.

"Certainly based on this vote here it appears that people are likely to accept the Boudreau bill," said Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger. He says he's disappointed that the Senate won't be able to make any changes to the bill.

He says the House and the National Rifle Association are using parliamentary maneuvers because they're afraid that the Senate will make significant changes: "They're afraid to have the discussion. It's a sad time in Minnesota when people who advocate something, special interests who advocate something, that are an extreme change to our culture are afraid to have the debate."

Hottinger's concession signals an end to Senate leadership's ability to deflect the handgun bill and several other controversial bills in recent years. The House successfully used a similar maneuver to get the Senate to take an up and down vote on a bill that would require women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion. The bill became law.

Several DFL senators expressed frustration over the parliamentary maneuver. Red Wing Senator Steve Murphy says he's concerned that the House is not allowing the Senate to put their fingerprints on the handgun bill. He says he's concerned the bill would put 90,000 more handguns on the street over the next three years.

"Clearly, in those states where they have more liberal concealed carry laws, the one that Represenateive Boudreau is offering up, there are more gun deaths than there are than states that have much more restrictive permittings as here in the state of Minnesota, many more gun deaths," Murphy said.

Supporters argue that the bill would give Minnesotans the ability to protect themselves. Pariseau says supporters have listened to concerns from a variety of groups, including school officials and employers.

Pariseau says they've crafted a reasonable bill. "Seven years of negotiations brings more people to the table, more concerns, more resolutions to the concerns and that's what we have in the bill," she said. "While everybody doesn't come out and blatantly endorse it, a lot of them have said 'ok you're covered our concerns.'"

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, says he doesn't know if House Republicans will use the parliamentary maneuvers to get the Senate to address other bills. He's unapologetic in getting the Senate to take action on the more controversial bills.

"What's wrong with asking senators and house members vote up and down," he said. "Stand up and be accountable. It seems to me to be the most important part of a representative democracy, the republic we have is to hold accountable the members we elect."

Hottinger says he believes DFLers in the caucus will stick together on other issues. He says abortion and the concealed carry bills are the only ones that should split the caucus.

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