"We're going to make some real progress this session," Martens said. She said people directly affected by gun violence understand the need for law changes, pointing to testimony Tuesday by the 17-year-old son of the Minneapolis business owner killed in last fall's fatal shootings at Accent Signage Systems.
"His American dream became an American nightmare," Sami Rahamim said of his father. Rahamim did not back specific proposals but spoke more generally of the need to tighten access to guns.
The background check bill would require all gun purchases in Minnesota to be made with federally licensed dealers. NRA lobbyist Christopher Rager said sales records of those purchases would eventually be turned over to federal law enforcement, creating a functional registry of all gun owners.
"Gun registration is something we have a concern about," Rager said. "There are many people who disagree with having their guns tracked, taxed and potentially taken away from them."
The NRA also raised objections to tougher mental health screening for gun permit applicants, and it found an ally in representatives from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Sue Abderholden, director of the alliance's Minnesota chapter, said that would stigmatize the vast majority of mentally ill people who are not dangerous and discourage some people who need treatment from voluntarily entering programs out of fear it could weaken future gun ownership rights or just violate their privacy.
Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican and NRA ally, had planned a bill allowing armed teachers in Minnesota schools as a preventive step against school shootings. While he criticized the Democratic bills up for debate Tuesday, Cornish said he decided not to introduce that measure as a separate bill since Dayton vowed to veto it.
But Cornish said he might resurrect his proposal as a House floor amendment later in the session. A colorful and sometimes brash supporter of gun rights, Cornish showed up at Tuesday's hearing wearing a tie with the NRA logo and a lapel pin shaped like an AK-47.
"I don't see anything happening with gun control this year," Cornish said.