Two Republican senators in Minnesota took the unusual step of joining two DFL counterparts in proposing a pair of gun control bills.
Sens. Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth) and Scott Jensen (R-Chaska) joined Sens. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville) and Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) in submitting the legislation on Monday.
It would require universal background checks for gun sales – closing the "gun show" and private sale loophole, with exemptions for sales between family members and law enforcement.
The other would require gun owners to report missing or stolen guns, which aims to stop guns from falling into the hands of those not legally allowed to have them via straw buyers.
Both these bills would "help keep guns out of the hands of criminals," Little said.
Both Republicans are NRA members
The involvement of Jensen and Anderson comes despite the fact both are members of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has pushed back strongly against gun control measures in the wake of the Florida school shooting.
During the press conference, Jensen – a family physician – said that while making schools safer is vital, "the discussion cannot stop there."
"I think the four of us stand before you today because we also hear the deafening silence of a lack of conversation in the halls of Capitols around the nation."
On Monday, the first-term senator was accused of "betrayal" by the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, which says he "lied" to gun owners about his opposition to the expansion of background checks when filling out the Gun Owners Caucus' candidate survey prior to his election in 2016.
"Absolutely I may have changed from what I wrote on the form two years ago," he said during Monday's press conference. "But how many shootings have taken place since then?"
"I don’t think I’m going to lose my seat over this issue, but if I do - que sera."
Anderson, also a first-term senator, was similarly realistic about his future election prospects, saying: "If it means losing my seat, it means losing my seat."
Both might be just fine however – polls taken over the past two years show that the vast majority of Americans, ranging from 80 to over 90 percent depending on the poll, support an expansion of background checks for gun sales, Politifact notes.
Rob Doar, the political director for the Gun Owners Caucus, told MPR: “I do think he’s [Jensen] going to have a hard time seeking re-election if he intends to."
The bills face an uphill battle
Despite the bipartisan proposal, the bill faces a challenge in getting passed in the Senate, even though Republicans have a majority of just one.
MPR notes that some DFL members from rural districts have opposed gun restrictions, so these bills may not fall along party lines.
What's more, even if it does pass the Senate it would then have to pass the House, where the GOP has a larger majority.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) released a statement shortly after the press conference on Monday, saying the focus should be on making schools safer.
"Making our schools safer for Minnesota kids is a priority for Republicans. We can all agree on increasing the security of school buildings and improving mental health resources for students. There is no time to waste on ideas that don't work, or have no chance of passing the legislature this year."