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Gun control calls mark first day of new Minnesota legislative session

The new House leader says the DFL will be proposing 2 gun safety bills.
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Tuesday marked the first day of the new legislative session, with Minnesota the only state in the country with split chambers.

After gaining 18 seats in November's elections, the DFL took control of the Minnesota House, leaving the Republicans in control of the Senate.

The GOP majority in the Senate is just two seats, which could become one on Feb. 5 when a special election is held for the seat vacated by District 11 Sen. Tony Lourey, who resigned to join Gov. Tim Walz's administration.

With control of the legislature finely balanced, both parties set about revealing their legislative agendas for the upcoming session.

And one of the most keenly watched developments over the coming months will be whether there will be any headway made in passing gun safety measures, calls for which grew in 2018 after a series of mass shootings across the U.S.

Lawmakers were greeted at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday by a demonstration by Moms Demand Action, a group calling for gun control measures.

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Also in the Capitol Building were Republican counter protesters, some of whom called for protection of the 2nd Amendment, while others called for the Legislature to return more of the state's budget surplus to taxpayers.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, elected as the new House Speaker on Tuesday, joined a press conference alongside Moms Demand Action in which she said two "common sense" gun bills would be among the first 10 proposed by the Democrats in this session.

Moms Demand Action are calling for a bill requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales, and a "Red Flag" law that would allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court for temporary removal of a person's guns if they pose a risk to themselves or others.

Tim Walz, in his first press conference as Minnesota's new governor, said the DFL-backed proposals "just make sense," the Pioneer Press reports.

The question is whether such a bill would pass the GOP-controlled Senate, though two GOP Senators – Paul Anderson and Scott Jensen – did join two DFL colleagues in proposing gun safety measures last year.

Nonetheless most GOPers oppose the red flag and background check proposals, believing they would infringe upon the rights of gun owners.

They instead prefer to bolster the state's mental health services, which is one of the five bills the GOP in the Senate is expected to focus on first this session. The other four relate to child care, healthcare affordability, government accountability, and simplifying the tax code.

The child care proposal, for example, will tackle "regulatory overreach" in order to encourage new childcare providers to start businesses, while its healthcare plans include offering more freedom for people to choose their doctor and making healthcare billing more transparent.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told reporters he's optimistic about being able to work with the DFL-controlled House and Democratic governor Tim Walz.

That said, he doesn't think November's election results show that Republicans should shift towards Democratic positions on certain issues.

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