Some Minnesota legislators plan to push again for more restrictive gun laws, but passing new or tighter laws may not deter the most persistent gun offenders, says Minnesota Public Radio. In many cases, suspected gunmen are already legally banned from possessing guns. MPR News examined hundreds of Hennepin County cases charged in adult court last year that involved gun-related crimes. More than a third of the alleged offenders in those cases were already under a firearms ban because of past convictions for serious offenses.
The data reveal a complex picture of criminal gun use. “People on the street are plenty smart,” Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman said. “A lot of times they’ll give the guns to juveniles, because they won’t suffer the same kind of penalty. Or if someone is going to get a gun and wants a gun, he sends his girlfriend in the gun store to buy it for the felon, because the felon can’t buy it.” Prosecutions of crimes involving guns in Hennepin County have increased the past few years, while violent crime has decreased. The number of gun cases prosecuted in Hennepin County between fiscal years 2009 and 2012 increased by 134 percent. Tough law enforcement, not new gun laws, is key to convincing repeat gun offenders to put down their weapons, said Hamline University Law Prof. Joseph Olson. Police officers can basically harass chronic law breakers to the point where they give up, said Olson, who is also past president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance.