Bill Jungbauer leaned over the railing crowning the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda, his hands grasping a flag that read, "Don't tread on me."
"As our Founding Fathers said, the loss of our liberty is only a generation away," he said. "We all have to continue to stand up for it."
Jungbauer, of Inver Grove Heights, was among hundreds of people who rallied at the Capitol Saturday against gun-control measures moving through the Legislature.
The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus organized the event, which drew people of all ages from across the state, along with a slew of legislators and activists.
"There's a lot of us in this room that have had enough, and it's time to start riding herd on the rest of these people that want to take your rights away from you," Rep. Cal Bahr, R-East Bethel, told the crowd. "They will not go quietly into the good night. They need to be kicked to the curb and stomped on and run over a few times."
Democrats in the state House pledged early this session that two gun-control measures would be among their top priorities this year. The bills, and similar legislation in the Senate, would expand criminal background checks in firearms sales to cover private sellers and adopt a "red flag" law that would allow relatives or law enforcement to petition a court to remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to others or themselves.
The anti-gun-violence group Protect Minnesota issued a statement Friday in support of the proposed legislation.
"These are not extreme or experimental measures," the statement said. "Half of all Americans live in states that have comprehensive criminal background checks and over a third live in states with Red Flag laws."
Supporters have pinned hopes for the legislation on recent electoral gains by suburban candidates running on what they've billed as "common-sense gun safety" changes. But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has told gun rights advocates that he would "do everything in my power" to stop any new gun laws from passing this session.
On Saturday, legislators who addressed the crowd said the proposed legislation would infringe on Minnesotans' Second Amendment rights.
"Legal background checks lead to lists, lists lead to databases, databases lead to registration, registration leads to confiscation," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa. "History clearly shows us, through the millions who have died because of government's confiscation of guns, that we must stand firm."
A Wednesday committee hearing on the bills was originally scheduled at an Edina middle school but has been moved to the State Capitol. The chairman of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division Committee, Rep. Carlos Mariani, D-St. Paul, intends to pass the bills that evening, according to a meeting announcement.
Staff writer Stephen Montemayor contributed to this report. Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509