EXCLUSIVE: MN ‘swing-vote’ lawmaker takes stance on gun legislation

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 6:00 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, MN -- Senator Grant Hauschild (DFL - Hermantown) has so far been silent regarding his stance on two key gun control laws being proposed in St. Paul: universal background checks and red-flag laws.

A few months ago, the Senator spoke up against proposals to introduce gun registry and storage laws in the state of Minnesota, calling them “far too reaching to make sense for our state.”

Now, after a vote Wednesday, a conference committee for the Public Safety Omnibus Bill has reintroduced funding and language for red-flag laws and universal background checks, and Hauschild said he’s ready to take a position.

In an exclusive interview with Gray’s Minnesota State Capitol Reporter Quinn Gorham, the Senator revealed that he plans to vote in favor of the legislation when the bill comes around for a final vote.

SENATOR HAUSCHILD: “I came to the conclusion that we have to do something. There have been far too many school shootings. There has been far too much gun violence in our streets. And so background checks and the extreme risk protection orders made sense to make sure that we are addressing these where we can.”

QUINN GORHAM: “What prompted you to finally make that decision?”

SEN. HAUSCHILD: “I’ve had a lot of conversations with folks in the district about the need to do something. I’ve talked to sheriffs and police, talking about their hands being tied when families reach out to them about concerns they have with those that they live with perhaps being a threat to themselves or others. We have to be able to give the tools to law enforcement to address those concerns. Equally, I’ve heard from mothers concerned about dropping their kids off at school. I’m a father, I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old, and I can’t look my kids in the eye and tell them that there’s nothing that we could do to address gun violence and school shootings.”

QUINN: “Why was that not a decision that you came to sooner? Why did it take you some time to make that decision?”

SEN. HAUSCHILD: Well, the way that I go about all legislation is that I want to have thoughtful conversations with my constituents and get a gauge of where folks are at. You know, in those conversations, many law enforcement individuals in our district mentioned that they needed better tools in order to address these concerns. There are a lot of concerns around ghost guns and straw purchases, and background checks will help us address that issue. I needed to better understand where my district was at, where professionals and stakeholders were at that deal with these issues on a daily basis, and where families were at and I came to this conclusion through those conversations.”

The Senator represents a district that’s often seen as a politically mixed bag. Large parts of the Iron Range have deep-rooted union and labor ties, but often seek more conservative stances on issues like mining and guns.

QUINN: “Some might say you represent a sort of ‘purple district,’ the Iron Range being a hearty combination of red versus blue voters. Do you view yourself as a sort of ‘purple lawmaker’ in some senses?”

SEN. HAUSCHILD: “Absolutely. I have to feel pressure on every single issue, given the dynamics in our district and being a tight district. And I think that makes me a better legislator. Having those tough conversations with all stakeholders on all sides of issues makes me a better senator. Not every legislator has to have those tough conversations. Many can make decisions based on their own feelings immediately, and I don’t have that luxury. But I don’t even see it that way. I see it as an opportunity for me to have thoughtful conversations with all stakeholders and come to the best conclusion that works not only for our state but more specifically for our region.”

As the conversation concluded, Senator Hauschild acknowledged that his decision might not be popular with some constituents, but stood firm on his belief that it is the right decision.

QUINN: “Ultimately, how do you think your constituents will view this legislation and will view this decision?”

SEN. HAUSCHILD: “I think they know that when we are considering these types of legislation, we can be gun owners and we can have the traditions that we have while doing the things that we need to do to keep our kids safe.”

QUINN: “Are you ready for some folks to be perhaps a little upset about that decision?”

SEN. HAUSCHILD: “I think no matter what I do on any piece of legislation, there’s going to be folks that disagree with me and that’s okay. And I want to continue to have conversations with folks that maybe don’t necessarily agree with me on everything, because again, that makes me a better legislator.”

The Judiciary and Public Safety Omnibus Budget Bill will go before the Senate sometime between now and the end of the legislative session, which is constitutionally required to finish by May 22nd.

While some other DFL Senators could still swing the vote in a tightly held Senate, Hauschild’s support puts the legislation in a much more palatable spot for the DFL.

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