Minnesota DFL lawmakers on Thursday proposed raising the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic assault weapon from 18 to 21.
“These are weapons of war,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. Latz said it does not make sense to him that someone who is not yet allowed to drink alcohol can purchase such guns.
He and Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, authored the bills, which Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he would support. But they face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Numerous gun control measures have been brought up but have seen little movement so far.
“The record isn’t good,” Latz said. But businesses, health professionals and high school students are putting pressure on lawmakers following last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla. “I think we have a real good chance this year,” he said.
Latz said he saw other states taking steps to raise the minimum purchase age and wanted to make it happen here too. The Florida Legislature voted this week to raise the minimum age to 21 for all gun purchases.
The Minnesota bills focus on “semiautomatic military-style assault weapons,” such as an AK-47 or AR-15 rifle, which is what the Parkland shooter used. The bill also expands the definition of such weapons. The bills would make it illegal for people younger than 21 to buy the guns and also would make it illegal for such guns to be transferred to them. It includes some exemptions, such as for military members or police officers who use the guns for official duties.
The measure makes sense neurobiologically, said Dr. Thomas Kottke, president of the Twin Cities Medical Society’s board of directors, at a news conference Thursday. People’s judgment and impulse control are not fully present until they are 25, he said, so it makes sense to raise the age limit.
“We will be safer with this bill,” Kottke said.
However, Rob Doar, political director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said deaths involving the type of weapons mentioned in the bill are rare in Minnesota. “It’s hardly an epidemic here,” he said.
The gun owners’ caucus opposed two other gun restrictions a House panel recently considered. Those proposals would expand criminal background checks and allow family members and police to petition a court to remove someone’s guns. The Republican-majority committee tabled the bills.
“If we want to agree as a society that adulthood starts at 21,” that’s one thing, Doar said. But he said someone old enough to serve in the military or on a police force should be allowed to own those guns.
Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044