The expression is “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” The bi-partisan Conference Committee met yesterday to debate two public health gun safety bills: Comprehensive Background Checks and Red Flag. See earlier blogs for descriptions. After three hours of debate a vote was taken and the bills were defeated. The “other side” prevailed again. I would argue the “other side” refused to act in good faith. As Senator Ron Latz (DFL) clarified, “My two companion bills we’re rejected in committee each of the past two sessions.” Make that three sessions.

How do you kill a bill? You focus only on the trees, the imperfections, what your constituency would find objectionable, the politically friendly, the electability guarantor rather than the forest, the noble purpose of saving lives. As has been said, “Do not let the imperfect be the enemy of the good.”

The Conference Co-Chair and member of the majority party, refused to schedule hearings on the bills. Sticking points were the need for corrective to proportional consequences, the need to follow Constitutional principles (codeword for we’re right and you’re wrong), fear that the bills would mandate firearm registration (registration is a paranoia word), we are not enforcing laws already on the books (the proposed laws plug loopholes), if the seller sells without getting a receipt or losing a receipt, would that prevent them from getting guns in the future? (I have my right to purchase any time and any where to satisfy my gun fix), we are treating gun sellers like they are criminals (how about holding them accountable?), suspicion of police and sheriff overreach and abuse in deciding who should be given permission to purchase (beware the tyranny of government), what about firearms that are lost or damaged when confiscated (get a receipt from the authorities), inadequate due process (fix it now), how do you know if the police/sheriff recovered all of the weapons they were to seize (they do the best they can), and on and on. Yes, these are valid concerns.

HOWEVER. Politicians speak of bill-making as sausage-making! No side gets everything they want. Bills are the product of compromise. Bills are abundant with “trees of values.” In the end, the trees point skyward to grow a forest of expanded values covering the final expansive forest of focus. In the case of the two bills that went down to defeat, Comprehensive Background Checks and Red Flag, the expanded value forest dedicated to gun safety and saving human lives was “clear cut” by cutting every vulnerable tree, infecting the weak tree with an infestation of diversion and lack of good faith, and bowing fealty to the NRA and Minnesota Gun Owners Association. It mattered not that the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association endorsed these bills. They know these bills will protect the people affected and the police/sheriff. It made no difference. A final plea fell on majority deaf ears: “Just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we can’t do something.”

Kill a Bill was the planned order of the day. Success. The gun death count rises! The trees won. The forest burns. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:25b)

Jesus, keep your grace coming!

Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes