MN Carry Law Restored Despite Threats
by Dave Workman
Anti-gun church leaders in Minnesota were threatening to sue once again to derail the states newly-passed carry reform legislation, even before Gov. Tim Pawlenty inked the measure, but that didnt stop gun rights activists from celebrating another victory.
It took five weeks from the day the decision came down from Court of Appeals to get it through, said Joe Olson, the primary author of the original law. There were a lot of people who didnt think we could do it and a lot of them hoping we couldnt do it. But the local groups got together and met with legislators and discovered the legislature was ready, willing and able to pass the new bill.
The legislation, which passed the Senate 44-21 and sailed through the House 87-46 as the legislature entered its final days of the session, contains some slight changes from the original 2003 statute that was struck down by the appellate court over procedural issues. The original bill was passed as a rider to a Natural Resources bill. The court held that the law violated the one subject rule for legislation, and tossed it out without ruling whether the actual language of the statute was constitutional.
According to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Edina Community Lutheran Church Pastor Erik Strandone of the more outspoken opponents of the new carry statuteclaims that the new statute intrudes on the exercise of religion.
The state is seeking to intrude into the place where we gather to worship, Strand told a reporter.
However, attorney David Gross, one of the proponents of the legislation which he also helped craft, told Gun Week that churches should not expect state law to give them something that no other property owner got. He suggested that to do so, the legislature could then be accused of establishing a religion, thus violating the constitutional prohibition of mixing church and state.
Olson said the churches essentially got what they wanted in the new statute, because they will be able to advise people verbally or with a sign to keep guns out of church property, and they can word their signs to suit their preferences.
There was a concerted effort to stop the bill, but Gross noted that during floor debate, one thing (opponents) lost was the sky is falling argument.
Lawmakers had moved quickly to restore the carry reform legislation after the appeals court ruling. The new law is not specifically a concealed carry law. Gross noted that the law does not allude to concealed carry, only carry. Several poison pill amendments that had been tacked on by Senate anti-gunners in committee were stripped away during four hours of floor debate.
One anti-gunner, Sen. Wes Skoglund (DFL-Minneapolis) led the battle to keep the amendments in the legislation, but without success. There had been attempts to add certain amendments, but all were removed. One amendment would have allowed convention centers, sports stadiums and theaters to automatically prohibit handguns. Another proposal would have allowed municipalities to ban guns in public buildings and in public parks.
The bills primary sponsor, Sen. Pat Pariseau (R-Farmington) methodically stripped out each of the amendments, much to Gross delight. She was quoted in The Star-Tribune noting, The people of Minnesota understood this from the beginning; it was just here in these halls that they didnt understand it. You can trust citizens to use their rights responsibly. I think we proved that we can trust them.
Among the amendments she stripped from the bill were provisions that would have enabled local governments to ban handguns in public buildings.
Anti-gunners pulled out all the stops in their effort to halt the bills momentum. They pointed to the May 12 slaying of a restaurant doorman in their attempt, because the accused had a carry permit.
Zachary Ourada, 26, is behind bars, facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of Billy Walsh, a doorman at a popular Minneapolis eatery called Nyes Polonaise Room. According to The Star-Tribune, Ourada had been drinking, became obnoxious and was ejected from the restaurant. He allegedly threatened Walsh before the shooting.
Ourada then reportedly ran and jumped into the Mississippi River, where he was later pulled out. The gun was not immediately recovered, but in his truck, police found ammunition and a loaded magazine. Ourada was wearing an empty holster when he was arrested.
I think this is a wake-up call to legislators, said Rebecca Thoman, executive director of a group called Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, and I hope they will take another look. Putting more guns out there results in more deaths and injuries. . . . How many instances is it going to take until there are enough?
Amid all the predictable rage came a suspicious e-mail threat that went to House members the day before the vote. Gross said the threat was so outrageous that he doubts a serious gun rights activist would have sent it. Investigators are reportedly trying to track down the origin of that note, which was circulated over the name of prominent gun rights activist Joel Rosenberg, who had nothing to do with it.
Rosenberg told Gun Week that he was stunned when his name was linked to the nasty e-mail. He is convinced the message was an attempt to sabotage the legislation.
Joe Waldron, executive director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, called the e-mail a despicable last-minute attempt to derail the legislation. However, he lauded responsible Minnesota legislators for being wise enough to see through the sham.
Gross said computer experts had been brought in to trace the source of the e-mail.
The new law tightens requirements for instructors who teach the mandatory training course for license applicants.
Although the new statute will allow churches to either post their buildings off limits with appropriate signs, or advise visitors verbally that guns arent allowed, church anti-gunners are upset because the new statute does not allow bans on guns in parking lots.
Under the new law, handguns may be carried openly or concealed. This was not, Gross repeatedly stressed, a concealed carry law.
Another change allows off-duty police to carry firearms in places normally off-limits to armed private citizens, Olson noted.
The new law was retroactive back to the date in 2003 that the original carry law became effective. Still in the law is a provision recognizing the Second Amendment as protective of an individual right.
Language in the statute made it effective 24 hours after it was signed. Under the new language, carry licenses must once again be issued to all law-abiding citizens who qualify. Since the 2003 law was struck down, the state reverted to the old law, where local police chiefs had broad discretion in handing out permits.
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