Pretend gun control bills show Minnesota's suburban Republicans panicking

The kids are marching, and the officials who once served as human barricades for the NRA seem unable to stop them.

The kids are marching, and the officials who once served as human barricades for the NRA seem unable to stop them. Fibonacci Blue

A few weeks ago, suburban Minneapolis Republicans introduced two gun control bills in the Minnesota House. One might say they were stillborn by design.

The first, from Reps. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) and Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), would tighten laws for the possession of guns by those with domestic violence orders against them.

The second, authored by Anderson, Loon, and Rep. Cindy Pugh (R-Chanhassen), provided incentives to conduct background checks on private sales.

Both arrived as the Minnesota Legislature’s calendar was sputtering to an end, with no chance of passing. They were tepid and of amateur construction, widely panned by everyone from gun enthusiasts to sheriffs to battered women activists. Not that it mattered.

They were little more than window dressing, designed to look pretty and promptly wilt with haste. Sen. Warren Limmer, a Maple Grove Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s public safety committee, had already vowed to block any bill from ever getting a vote. He’s made good on that promise.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) has also refused a vote on any bill that lacks the stamp of approval from the NRA, essentially handing the group veto power over state law.

Anderson, Loon, and Pugh knew their bills would go nowhere. That was the point. They could pretend they were working to prevent the slaughter of our children, while expending zero effort or courage to make it happen.

This is what politicians call a “win-win.”

“I think this will benefit the suburban Republicans who want to be able to tell the voters they introduced a bill,” Nancy Nord Bence, head of the gun control group Protect Minnesota, told the Star Tribune.

Last week, Minnesota’s Maestro of Empty Gestures, Congressman Erik Paulsen, leapt aboard the same bandwagon. He’s now backing a bill to urge states to let police take guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others. He did so at the risk of surpassing his own record for shamelessness.

It wasn’t long ago that the Eden Prairie Republican voted to lift rules barring sales to people with mental illness. He also favors subverting Minnesota law by making carry permits from other states valid here.

He knows the possum-hunting hillbilly clan that is Congress has no intention of passing anything that violates the delicate sensibilities of the NRA, which has given Paulsen an A rating. And with Minnesota’s legislative session winding down, there’s not a chance anything could change this year.

Paulsen was running the same game as Pugh, Anderson, and Loon. Though he’s long been a devoted stewardess of wherever the NRA wants to fly, he now gets to pretend that he’s fighting the scourge of school massacres.

Believe it or not, this is a good thing.

A recent poll by the Star Tribune shows that 90 percent of Minnesotans favor universal background checks. According to the nonpartisan Quinnipiac University poll, 67 percent of Americans favor a ban on assault rifles. The country’s support for gun control is at its highest since the Sandy Hook massacre.

In the past, our four heroes would have simply waited the storm out. As memories faded, we would return to our regularly scheduled programming of gun-related carnage, and they could resume their servitude to the NRA.

But things changed after the Parkland, Florida, slaughter. The children rose up. Voters – especially suburban women – began to notice that these high schoolers were more intelligent, more mature, more convincing than their own elected officials.

In the sprawl beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul, the GOP is now reading its own polls, which show the party in danger of becoming a special interest group for aging white guys. Survival means attempting to placate women, however ineptly.

Yet this is a signal for optimism. When the creatures of pure self-interest start to bail, believe that a better day is coming.