ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Hoping to pressure colleagues to vote on gun-control legislation that has stalled in the Minnesota Legislature, a first-term lawmaker staged a 24-hour sit-in inside the House chamber, rising occasionally to read stories of people killed by gun violence.
Rep. Erin Maye Quade, a Democrat, ended her sit-in on Wednesday to the cheers of supporters. She vowed that the movement against gun violence will “continue, and it’ll continue to grow stronger” if Republicans who control both the House and Senate don’t allow votes on the bills.
Democrats and a handful of suburban Minneapolis Republican are calling for stronger background checks for gun buyers and so-called “red flag” laws, which give families and police a legal path to temporarily remove guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others.
“There has been a movement happening in this country for gun violence prevention for a long time,” she said, recalling that she was in middle school 19 years ago when the Columbine High School shooting happened in Colorado. “This is another part of that movement.”
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Wednesday that some lawmakers were working on tweaks to gun legislation that could draw enough support to pass this year. Daudt previously mentioned potential changes to background checks, but he stopped short of the universal background-check policy that Democrats have called for.
Maye Quade said that’s not enough.
“There is no conversation. If it’s behind closed doors, it’s not happening,” she said. “This is the people’s house.”
Gun laws have fallen under scrutiny nationwide since February’s deadly school shooting that killed 17 students and staff members at a Florida high school. A handful of states, including Florida, have approved “red flag” laws, while others have expanded rules on who can buy guns.
But efforts to move similar bills in Minnesota have foundered.
With less than a month left in the legislative session, gun control bills haven’t reached full House or Senate floors for a vote. The proposed changes face stiff odds with both Republicans and rural Democrats.
The overnight protest by Maye Quade, who’s from the Minneapolis suburb of Apple Valley, drew the attention of several dozen gun control supporters, who gathered outside the House chamber and chanted, “We represent the 90 percent,” in reference to a recent statewide poll showing 90 percent of respondents favor tighter gun laws.
As Maye Quade stood up and walked out of the chamber, she was greeted by their cheers. Her protest, which began Tuesday morning after the floor session ended, didn’t disrupt the business of the House.