As gun-control advocates filled the Capitol rotunda on Monday, a senator holding gun hearings this week said he will not take up weapons and ammunition bans that the activists favor.
"The outright banning of guns is a conversation that is more suited on the federal level," said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement.
The Committee is holding hearings on gun-violence issues on Thursday and Friday, following hearings two weeks ago in the House. Latz said his hearings will focus on universal background checks that would close gaps in the current background-checks system.
He said his committee will not hear proposals for a ban on assault weapons or on higher-capacity ammunition magazines. The House took up those issues as well as background checks. Supporters of gun-owners rights overflowed the House committee rooms and were particularly upset at the weapons and magazine bans.
"The assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazine ban proposals are highly divisive," Latz said in an interview.
But he said there is a broad public and law-enforcement consensus behind universal background checks.
"I want to focus on what has broad public support," he said. He said he believes a background-check bill can be passed.
Meanwhile, gun-control advocates who were greatly outnumbered at hearings on gun bills two weeks ago filled the Capitol rotunda Monday in advance of the Judiciary Committee's hearings.
"Enough is enough," said speaker after speaker, a group that included family members of murder victims as well as legislators and religious leaders.
"We are at a moment in Minnesota history," said Heather Martens, head of Protect Minnesota. "We have real hope to do something about gun violence."
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who chaired three days of House hearings into gun bills, urged the group to contact legislators and make their views known. He assured the group that a proposal for universal background checks -- closing loopholes in current laws -- will be part of a gun-violence measure he is putting together.
Mary Johnson, whose son was shot and killed in north Minneapolis in 1993, and who has formed a group of victims' mothers to advocate against violence, told the group, "I don't want to see anybody go through what I've gone through." Samuel Rahamim, whose father died in the Accent Signage shootings last September, also spoke, as he has at ever hearing on the issue.
In addition to Paymar's background-checks bill, gun-control advocates have supported a ban on certain semi-automatic rifles known as "assault rifles" and on higher-capacity ammunition magazines. Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, expressed his support to the group.
"I am behind you 100 percent -- enough is enough," he said.