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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 05 2013

Minnesota teen to lawmakers: Save our dads from guns

ST. PAUL – Sami Rahamim delivered a powerful message to Minnesota legislators: Don’t let other youths suffer through the shooting deaths of their fathers.

The son of the owner of Minneapolis’ Accent Signage, killed in a mass shooting last year, offered his support Tuesday to gun-control bills Minnesota legislators are considering.

“My dad lived the American dream, but died the American nightmare,” the 17-year-old said of Reuven Rahamim, who built Accent Signage into a nationally known sign maker before he was killed by a gunman Sept. 27.

“Nothing prepares you for the news that your father has been murdered,” Rahamim told the House public safety committee.

“The gunman killed six fathers that day,” he added, leaving 15 orphans.

Rahamim has made it a mission to fight gun violence since his father and five others were killed at the western Minneapolis company. The shooter, who killed himself, apparently suffered from a mental illness. The teenager’s testimony came during the first of at least five Minnesota House public safety committee hearings on a dozen gun-related bills. Committee Chairman Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said the committee will not vote on the bills, or even debate them, until late this month.

A Senate committee plans Feb. 21 and 22 hearings on similar gun bills, part of a national debate on guns set off by recent mass shootings.

More than 500 people watched Paymar’s hearing, with 200 packing the committee room and the rest watching television monitors in two overflow rooms. Most wore National Rifle Association or other pro-gun patches, buttons or shirts.

Paymar said he hopes pro- and anti-gun groups can come together in the final bills.

“We all have a piece of the truth and neither side has all the answers,” he said.

His bill to increase background checks for gun purchasers was first up, followed by a bill offered by Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, to restrict gun use by violent mentally ill Minnesotans.

Among other provisions, the Paymar bill would require collecting more information during background checks on gun buyers and would expand the permit waiting period two days, to seven, before a buyer could obtain a gun.

It also would ban anyone who ever has been committed to a mental health treatment facility from owning a gun if a court determines the person is mentally ill and dangerous.

The bill would require all gun buyers to obtain permits, while current law does not apply to private sales.

“We’re not doing enough to protect the citizens of our state from gun violence,” said Executive Director Dennis Flaherty of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers’ Association.

Republicans complained that Democrats who gained control of the Legislature this year took up gun issues instead of dealing with budget matters.

Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, tweeted: “Just 30 days into session, DFL already abandoning focus on job creation and the budget to tackle divisive gun legislation.”

Police organizations voiced their support for Paymar’s bill, but Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, said rank-and-file officers oppose it.

Cornish, a longtime law enforcement officer, wore an assault rifle lapel pin, a hand cuffs pin and an NRA logo on his tie.

The NRA’s Chris Rager said the bill would remove fundamental Second Amendment gun rights.

“Private sales are the exception, not the rule,” Rager said.

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