Minnesota State Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, and Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, spent most of their town meeting in Morris on March 23 listening to audience members ask them to support stricter gun laws in Minnesota.
Westrom and Backer were at the Morris Public Library from about 11:15 a.m. to noon.
Westrom and Backer said that school safety is a topic during this year's legislative session.
An audience member asked if the two legislators would support two bills that would make the state safer in relation to guns.
One bill calls for universal background checks. A second bill would make it more difficult for those with mental health issues to obtain a gun, several audience members said. A specific feature of the second bill would allow parents to seek a restraining type order that would prevent a child with mental health issues from obtaining a gun.
Westrom said he'd support the second bill which would make it more difficult for an individual with mental health issues to obtain a gun because it sounds like a bill he's already supporting.
A universal background check, "would not have avoided the recent school shootings in Maryland or Florida," Westrom said.
An audience member said a universal background check may not prevent every gun shooting but it's not just school shootings. A universal background check would help in situations of attempted suicide or a threat from one individual to another, the audience member said.
"We do background checks here in Minnesota," Backer said. "You cannot just go get a gun."
Westrom and Backer said the Second Amendment must also be considered when gun laws are discussed.
Audience members said universal background checks would not infringe on the rights of a law abiding citizen.
Backer said there are many issues involved with school safety from violent video games to pornography that degrades women and access to mental health services.
Backer said he's working hard to expand mental health services in Minnesota's public schools.
In other issues:
• Westrom and Backer said they would continue to work toward expansion of broadband service in rural Minnesota. Westrom said money was dedicated toward expansion in last year's budget and not as much would be available this year. "This year, maybe $5 million to $10 million," Westrom said.
• The two legislators also said they would support budget requests earmarked for the University of Minnesota Morris. The requests include money to revamp several aging buildings on campus. "I've always been supportive of the university in Morris," Backer said. He's been able to work with other legislators on support for UMM but he has run into resistance from the University of Minnesota system as a whole, Backer said.
• Westrom and Backer said they would continue to work on the buffer law to make sure a state or federal agency such as the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources would not enforce the buffer law at the county level but that counties would handle enforcement.