A new political action committee dedicated to supporting pro-Second Amendment candidates in Minnesota elections launched on Tuesday. The Minnesota Gun Owners PAC plans to raise and spend money, as well as endorse and rate candidates based on their positions regarding gun control.
The PAC’s formation was inspired by a contentious effort to pass enhanced gun restrictions during the 2013 legislative session. That debate was mirrored by similar legislative battles that sprung up nationwide following the Sandy Hook school shooting in late 2012. Ultimately, conservative and rural Democrats in the House united with their Republican counterparts to block any significant overhaul of state gun laws, rejecting proposals that had included regulations on the type of firearms and ammunition magazines available for sale, as well as an expansion of background checks on gun purchases.
Despite that failure, gun control advocates have pledged to be ready to revisit the topic during next year’s session. So, too, will strong supporters of the Second Amendment. In the press release announcing the group’s launch, Minnesota Gun Owners PAC chairman Mark Okern points back to the gun control hearings in spring of this year.
“Over multiple days of hearings, law abiding gun owners heard proposal after proposal that would impact their ability to protect themselves, hunt, and enjoy the shooting sports while having no impact whatsoever on gun violence,” Okern said.
The committee has also introduced a new website. MNgopac.org includes event listings for upcoming firearms safety and collector events, as well as a page allowing enthusiasts to donate to the new group.
The political group was founded by Okern, a local professional gun safety instructor, and Bryan Strawser, a global crisis management executive at Target Corp. who has registered as the PAC’s treasurer. In his online biography, Okern is described as having worked “on campaigns for both Democratic and Republican candidates.” Strawser, meanwhile, is a fairly prolific blogger on issues of national security and gun rights legislation, and has often taken issue with the local gun control advocacy group Protect Minnesota.
In his own portion of the statement announcing Minnesota Gun Owners’ debut, Strawser alleges that gun control activists and lobbyists in Minnesota have been largely funded by out-of-state interests, and says the new PAC will be different.
“The Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee… is supported and led by the same Minnesotans that showed up at the legislature by the hundreds this year to protest against ineffective gun control proposals that would have adversely impacted their civil rights,” Strawser said.
A disclaimer on the website indicates that Strawser’s advocacy role is unrelated to his position with Target.