Gun law stirs debate at federal and state levels

The assault-weapons ban will expire because Congress failed to renew it.

Kari Petrie

With a federal law that bans assault weapons expiring Monday and a state law easing access to hand guns in limbo, the future of gun control is a shot in the dark.

Although other issues might overshadow gun control in the upcoming election, it has been a hot subject in the State Legislature as well as Congress.

The assault-weapons ban, officially known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Act, expires Sept. 13. Originally passed in 1994, the law established a prohibition on most assault weapons, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

“It may make for good politics, but the ban has done little to make Minnesota families safer,” Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said in a statement. Coleman said he does not support the ban.

The ban will expire because Congress failed to renew it after its 10-year lifespan.

Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., voted for the initial authorization of the act, Dayton spokeswoman Chris Lisi said.

“It keeps the most dangerous guns off our streets,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Dayton is not confident the act will be renewed in the upcoming year, he said in the statement.

Political science professor Bill Flanigan said the issue won’t play a large role in the upcoming elections.

“There are too many larger issues,” he said.

Permit-to-carry law struck down

In July, a Ramsey County district judge ruled Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law, which provided guidelines for granting gun licenses, violated state law.

Judge John Finley ruled that passage of the law, also known

as the conceal-and-carry law, violated the state constitution, because it was added to a Department of Natural Resources bill. The constitution states laws can only deal with one subject, he ruled.

First-year philosophy student Margot Goodnow said she was happy to see the permit-to-carry law repealed while it’s in the appeals process.

“I feel safer knowing other people weren’t allowed to have guns on them,” she said.

Leslie Sandberg, spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Hatch, said the decision revokes the law while it’s in the appeals process.

“If people would like to apply for a permit, they need to apply with their sheriff,” she said.

Flanigan said changes to the permit-to-carry law will probably not affect the election, but gun-control issues could influence the election in a different way.

“The National Rifle Association will Ö spend a lot of money contacting their members, urging them to vote based on the issue,” Flanigan said.

Flanigan said the group will mobilize voters around the country.

“It probably affects turnout in a large number of states,” he said.

NRA representatives were unavailable for comment.

Goodnow said gun control is not a major issue for her, but it will have some effect on whom she votes for in November.

But she said having Republican Tim Pawlenty as governor means it will be easier to get a similar permit-to-carry law passed in the future.

“What can you do?” she said.