Editorial: Don’t approve proposals that weaken gun control rules

Published 9:06 am Thursday, March 23, 2017

Minnesota lawmakers should not approve proposals that would weaken gun control rules

Once again, the fewer-gun-rules-the-better crowd proposes diluting Minnesota firearms regulations. And once again, that effort should be stopped.

Some GOP lawmakers resurrected various proposals this year thinking that their new legislative majority will help them pass. They introduced plans to eliminate carry permit requirements altogether and to broaden immunity for shooters who claim they were acting in self-defense. Similar bills have been offered in the past, but either never made it out of committee or were vetoed.

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These ideas deserve the same fate this time around. Both ill-advised measures are solutions in search of problems. Current firearms statutes are fair and not overly burdensome or expensive for law-abiding gun owners. Requirements for gun permits are reasonable and helpful; the state should have information about those carrying guns.

Authors and supporters of the bills argue that they will strengthen and clarify Second Amendment rights. But those rights are not under challenge; this state allows the overwhelming majority of those who seek to purchase or carry a firearm to do so.

According to reports from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, during the past decade, 364,171 Minnesotans applied for carry permits and 98.8 percent of them were accepted. Only 1.2 percent (4,341) had permits denied, suspended, revoked, voided or canceled.

The cost of a permit to carry also is not excessive. A $100 permit lasts five years — at $20 per year, that means a gun permit costs less than many annual hunting and fishing licenses.

Similarly, Minnesotans can already defend themselves with a firearm within reasonable legal limits, so additional “stand your ground” protections are unnecessary.

Opponents of the bills include gun violence-prevention groups like Protect Minnesota and Every Town for Gun Safety who rightly argue that neither bill would improve public safety. They are joined by law enforcement groups including the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and the state association of county attorneys.

“(The bill) eliminates the safety training requirement … allowing even people who have never handled a gun to carry one in public,” said Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell, during testimony before the House Public Safety Committee earlier this month. In an interview, Schnell told an editorial writer that it doesn’t make sense to give civilian shooters more latitude to use firearms than police officers. At a time of growing concern about use of deadly force, many departments are training officers in how to de-escalate the kinds of confrontations that have led to fatal shootings.

Law enforcement opposition to the measures carries great weight. Cops and county attorneys are on the front lines in dealing with gun violence and believe that the bills will put officers at greater risk.

After taking testimony, House committee members did not vote on the bills, opting to set them aside for inclusion in the larger public safety omnibus bill. Whether standing alone or as part of another bill, the proposals should not be approved. They would not make Minnesotans safer.

— Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 17

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