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Change in handgun law seen as unlikely this year
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Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Faribault, said she is willing to adjust the gun law, but is concerned reopening the issue would lead to a new debate on the measure. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says he'll continue to push for a change in a new law that would require sheriffs to issue handgun permits to almost any Minnesotan over the age of 21. The law went into effect Wednesday. Sviggum and Gov. Pawlenty say they would like to change a requirement that business owners both post signs and personally tell people that guns aren't welcome in their establishments. The proposed change would allow business owners to do one or the other. However, several lawmakers say they don't think a compromise between the House and Senate on the handgun issue can be reached this session.

St. Paul, Minn. — Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says he'd like to bring the bill up on the House floor, but doesn't think he has the necessary votes. He says he's frustrated because opponents have expressed their displeasure with the provision but don't want to make the suggested change.

"If there's not an agreement or not an interest in doing that. I'm ready to do it but if the Senate is not willing to help with eliminating some confusion and that what is seems to be. I don't think it's necessary but I'm just willing to do that to accomodate the governor's concern," Sviggum said. The proposal came up after Gov. Pawlenty's chief of staff said on Monday that parts of the new law are "unwise." He and others say it's too restrictive on businesses, churches and other establishments.

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Image Businesses erecting no-gun signs

The House author of the bill, Rep. Lynda Boudreau, says she'll go along with the suggested changes. The Faribault Republican says she'd like to see lawmakers adopt the suggested change. But she says she's reluctant to bring up the bill unless the Senate agrees to go along with it without further amendments.

"If there's not an agreement or not an interest then I'm not sure about doing that. I don't think it's necessary, but I'm just willing to do that to accomodate the governor's concern," she said. Boudreau says she wants the Senate to adopt the compromise but is unwilling to accept any other suggested changes. The law requires sheriffs to issue permits to any law abiding Minnesotan over the age of 21. They can deny permits to felons, some people with mental health problems or those who are considered a danger to themselves or others.

Several senators say the firm stance by Boudreau and others could make things difficult.

"There are many flaws in that bill," says Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger, who says it's unlikely that they'll accept only one change to the law. He says he and others resent that the House used a parliamentary move to force the full Senate to vote up or down on the bill in April. They weren't allowed to make any changes to it. He says the suggested change doesn't go far enough.

"We're not willing to just accomodate one change when it doesn't really fix the problem. What we want to do is fix the bill. It's a bad bill. It's a bad law for Minnesota. It's drafted poorly. it will be implemented in a confused fashion and the authors have to take responsibility for the fact that they presented a bad bill and the governor signed a bad bill," Hottinger said.

DFL Sen. Wes Skoglund of Minneapolis says he's urging the Senate to resist making the suggested change. He says it makes the bill even more confusing.

"The changes that they talk about will only make it worse and we would not want to go along with that. They do not improve upon the law they only make it more confusing. All of the changes that I've heard about or read about are changes that will make it more difficult for businesses, churches more difficult for anybody to keep somebody out of their business who wants to bring a gun in," Skoglund said.

Skoglund says he's preparing to suggest several amendments if the bill arrives in the Senate. He says he'll propose an amendment to repeal the new law or suggest other changes that makes it more restrictive.

Both Boudreau, Sviggum and the Senate author of the bill held a news conference to discuss the new law. Republican Sen. Pat Pariseau of Farmington says opponents of the bill and others who don't like the law are being quote "hysterical" about the changes.

"I challenge you -- the media -- and I challenge the fearmongers who we hear from in the chamber all the time and on the telephone and through e-mail. I challenge (them) to give me an example of a permit holder... doing the kinds of things they say will happen. You can bring it from any state and I'll listen, but if you bring me more than two, I would be darn surprised," she said.

Critics counter that other states have tougher restrictions on permit holders and will suggest tougher measures this year and in future legislative sessions.

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