Dear Members of the Judiciary and Public Safety Conference Committee:
The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice for the Catholic Church in Minnesota, writes to ask that you include in the final conference report the following common-sense measures that may actually limit gun violence and at the same time respect legitimate gun ownership:
- Language requiring that private transfers of pistols and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons be preceded by a firearms eligibility background check of the person receiving the firearm (HF 2792);
- Language that would create a so called “Red Flag” law, which would provide a procedure under which a chief law enforcement officer or a city or county attorney can petition for an “extreme risk protection order” (ERPO) which would prohibit someone who presents a danger to themselves or someone else from possessing firearms for a fixed period of time (HF 2792).
We would also ask that you include the Family Impact Statement language contained in the House bill, which would permit the court to order that a presentence investigation include a statement discussing the impact the defendant’s imprisonment would have on any minor children or other family members. The family impact statement would also provide the court with information regarding sentencing options other than a term of imprisonment.
Criminal justice policies should foster responsibility, restoration, and rehabilitation. Society has a right to be safe from truly dangerous persons, but corrections policies should be just, and criminal sentences should consider several factors, including the impact the nonviolent defendant’s sentence might have on the family they leave behind.
Finally, we would ask you oppose the Private Cooperative Divorce Program provision in the House omnibus bill. Marriage is recognized as a foundational building block of society. Although marriage has a private dimension, it entails very public commitments that can produce both individual and community benefits. When this union breaks apart, there are very important public concerns that must be addressed, and the state has an interest in overseeing this process, especially due to coercion and abuse that can be part of marriage and the reality of family fragmentation.
The legislation contained in HF 2792 views marriage as simply a contract that can be privately entered into and privately exited with no legal protections or oversight by the state for either party. Privatizing divorce could allow one spouse to coerce the other into inequitable property distributions or create a parentage agreement that does not serve the best interests of the child. Private Cooperative Divorce is not in the best interests of Minnesotans.
Thank you for your consideration on these matters and for your service to the state of Minnesota.
Shawn M. Peterson
Associate Director for Public Policy