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Associated Press, Published December 18 2012

Democratic leaders want Minnesota gun laws evaluated

ST. PAUL — Democratic leaders who will assume control of the Minnesota Legislature in January plan to take a closer look at the state's gun laws in the wake of another mass shooting.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut has been a catalyst for discussions of gun regulations across the country. While no concrete proposals have emerged yet in Minnesota, top Democrats said this week they plan to evaluate the strength of the state's gun laws. Meanwhile, a veteran Republican said he plans to introduce legislation to allow teachers to arm themselves in the classroom.

State Rep. Michael Paymar, the Democrat who will lead the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee beginning in January, said every state has a responsibility to evaluate their gun laws following the Connecticut shooting in which a gunman killed 20 children and seven adults.

"In light of this tragedy, in light of the tragedies we've already had in Minnesota, I believe it's perfectly reasonable," Paymar told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

His Senate counterpart, Democrat Scott Dibble, said his constituents also want the issue addressed.

Dibble represents Minneapolis, a city that had its own gun-related tragedy this fall. On Sept. 27, a former employee of Accent Signage went on a shooting spree after being fired, killing six people before turning the gun on himself.

"I do sense there's a shifting attitude on this issue," Dibble said. "This latest tragedy is just so appalling and heinous, it begs a host of questions about our gun laws and our state of mental health services."

Gov. Mark Dayton said he's willing to listen to legislative proposals, but he said Monday that he has no immediate proposals in mind.

Some lawmakers who support gun owners' rights are worried about a reflexive crackdown in the aftermath of the Connecticut shooting spree and warned that a rush could result in bad laws that do nothing to protect the public.

"The worst thing you can do is make guns less available," said Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, a former police chief from southern Minnesota.

Cornish said he plans to push legislation permitting teachers to have concealed weapons in schools.

"When the shooter knows it's not a gun-free zone, it would be very unlikely they would attempt something like that," Cornish said.

Dayton voiced concern about such a proposal Monday but didn't rule anything out.

Tom Dooher, president of the statewide teachers union Education Minnesota, pushed back on the idea.

"As a physical education teacher, I can't be teaching them how to shoot a basketball if I have my arms over my head, a pistol on my hip and curious kids surrounding me. That's a recipe for disaster," Dooher said.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.