If he was ever hard to pin down on guns during election season, new Gov. Tim Walz left little room for doubt Monday. The DFL’s gun-safety agenda fits with Walz’s One Minnesota theme, he told reporters, and he supports it.
“I’ve rejected this notion that you can’t protect Second Amendment rights and at the same time have common-sense legislation,” Walz said during his first Capitol news conference late Monday afternoon.
Specifically, Walz said he backs last year’s DFL bills on universal background checks for gun purchases and the introduction of emergency “red flag” restraining orders. “I think that just makes sense,” Walz said.
Those bills were killed by the GOP-controlled Legislature last year and would need to somehow navigate a GOP-controlled Senate this year to become law.
Walz, who once enjoyed an A rating from the NRA, acknowledged that gun legislation is an “incredibly charged issue.” Last year, the NRA gave him an F grade.
“To move a couple of pieces of legislation that have data supporting that they make our communities, our schools, our workplaces safer — and at the same time have no impact on the ability of lawful gun owners to purchase firearms — seems like the right thing to do,” Walz said. “Other states have been able to do that.”
The governor, a former Mankato schoolteacher and U.S. congressman, said he plans to “stand firm” with pheasant hunters when the season opens. But he added, “I want to stand there with those teachers and parents as they walk through to make sure their schools are safe. Those are not mutually exclusive goals.”
But guns are not Walz’s top priority — at least not specifically. He made that clear when asked what bills he would like to see land on his desk first.
“I think it would probably be safe to say the things we would like to see on our desk will involve economic security and families,” he said. “They will involve education and will involve health care.”
Walz also pledged to work with Republicans to get things done. In what was possibly an oblique swipe at predecessor Gov. Mark Dayton, Walz promised that he would never “move the goal posts.” Former House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, regularly accused Dayton of doing exactly that in the middle of tense negotiations.
“We will not change the process in the middle,” Walz said. “We will give clear guidance on where we would like to get to.”
He also suggested that he would not take defeat personally, should it come. “I do not assume that, if the Republican Legislature does not want to agree to what I put out — for example for education funding — that it means they do not like children,” he said.
His message to legislators entering his first term? “Stay true to the system,” Walz said.