OWATONNA – Gun enthusiasts are making sure they are heard by area lawmakers.
State Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, said she gets around 20 emails a day from gun owners, who are worried about the ongoing gun control discussion in St. Paul. State Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, said he has received 30 to 40 emails in the past two days, with two-thirds of them being from opponents of increased gun control.
“The vast majority of the emails are from people who want me to support their Second Amendment rights,” said Petersburg, whose district includes Owatonna. “Half of the emails are from (my) constituents in 24A, a large number from people in Owatonna and some in Waseca.”
Jensen said many of the emails she has been receiving deal with House File 241, which makes it a crime to manufacture, transfer, or possess assault weapons. Petersburg said if H.F. 241 came to a vote, he, at this time, would not support it or any other bill currently being discussed by House members on the Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee.
“I have seen no empirical data that shows me that any of the (proposed House) bills would reduce gun violence,” said Petersburg, who owns a rifle. “I don’t see any reason to change the law.”
Jensen said she also owns guns, and often went hunting as a child while growing up in South Dakota and Minnesota.
“Every year, we would go back to grandma and grandpa’s, and we would go pheasant hunting. It was an annual thing that we did." she said. "Me, as a child, I had to be a ‘dog’ for a few years before I could shoot a gun. That means you run after the pheasant, break the neck, the whole thing.”
Jensen said most of her family still owns guns.
“It’s part of our heritage, but I would never want an assault rifle, but I know there are a lot of people that like to use them, shoot them at ranges. I'm just not familiar with that,” she said.
District 27A Rep. Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, whose district includes Blooming Prairie, spent the week, as part of the House Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee, listening to gun control advocates and proponents.
“I’m continuing to gather input from you, my constituents and from law enforcement officers, teachers, parents, and gun owners from across the state who has been contacting me frequently," Savick said in a statement Thursday. "And I think we are going to be able to come together as legislators and find common sense solutions that work for Minnesotans.”
With “gun week” over in the Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee, Savick now hopes to have two bills she authored heard. The first bill offers a tax credit for volunteer first responders.
“In communities all across the state, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get enough volunteers,” Savick said. “As the current generation of firefighters and EMTs gets older, it’s a continuous battle for cities and counties to find volunteers willing to take on the noble task of keeping our aging communities safe. These are critical positions throughout Minnesota that need to be filled. This bill would offer a tax credit for first responders in the range of $500 that local departments could use as an incentive to bring in qualified volunteers.”
The second bill she hopes will be discussed in the public safety committee is an attempt to help local fire departments by adding a $5 fire safety fee to homeowner’s insurance costs.
“Safety equipment keeps our firefighters safe when they rescue us, our homes and our businesses from fires and other emergencies,” Savick said. “They are putting themselves in danger for the greater good of the community. But safe equipment is expensive. It takes approximately $2,000 to both outfit and train a new recruit. I’ve been told by numerous fire departments in our district that grain elevators, ethanol production plants and house fires are just as devastating and dangerous as any fire in Minnesota. And we need those fighting those fires to be protected with safe equipment.”
The state Senate will have its “gun week,” beginning Feb. 18. Jensen expects the Senate to talk more about public safety, background checks and mental issues more than banning of weapons.
Reach reporter Derek Sullivan at 444-2372, or follow him on Twitter @OPPSullivan