Minn. Gun Hearings: Background Checks, Mental Illness

Posted at: 02/05/2013 6:54 PM
Updated at: 02/05/2013 11:08 PM
By: Maarja Anderson

On the heels of President Obama's visit to Minnesota to talk about gun violence, a House committee begins their 3-day hearing on gun legislation.

12 different gun bills are on the agenda for the hearing, the first two were heard Tuesday morning in a crowded committee room.

Hundreds swarmed the capitol, filling the committee room and over-flowing into the halls, all there to hear the first two bills on the 3-day gun hearing agenda. The first bill, House File 237 was introduced by author Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL). It aims to limit loopholes in the background check system by including private sellers.

"I want my story told so other families do not have to go through the devastation mine has experienced," said Sami Rahamim during his testimony in support of the bill. "My dad lived the American Dream but died the American nightmare."

Rahamim lost his father to gun violence. Those opposed, however, said the legislation would not take guns out of criminal hands.

"The universal background check systems would never be universal and the reason being criminals would never submit to a background check, only law-abiding individuals are impacted by these regulations," said Chris Rager of the NRA.

Also on the agenda was House File 240. Authored by Rep. Dan Schoen (DFL), HF240 seeks to increase mental health screening for people applying for firearms.

"Studies and experiences have shown us as police officers that the untreated are significantly more likely to become violent and/or victims of crime," said Hennepin County Sheriff, Richard Stanek.

Mental health groups were on hand to raise their concerns. They said a bill like HF240 will further the stigma surrounding mental health.

"The vast majority of people living with mental illnesses are not violent," said National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota Executive Director, Sue Abderholden. "We need to de-link violence and mental illnesses, especially in light of how common they are."

The committee will discuss 10 other bills Tuesday evening, Wednesday, and Thursday.