Sheriff speaks out against proposed ammunition legislation

Published 9:00 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

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New proposed legislation is receiving pushback from a number of law enforcement, including Ryan Shea, sheriff for Freeborn County.

Ryan Shea

According to Shea, the bill — House File 396/Senate File 916 — is meant to require gun owners to store and lock firearms separately from ammunition, which is required to be locked up inside a home. A violation of the law precludes a person from acquiring a permit to carry. The bill, if passed, would hold gun owners responsible for locking up their firearms.

“One of the big things is that it’s inside somebody’s home,” he said. “We shouldn’t be regulating stuff like that inside somebody’s home.”

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Shea said there was already legislation against negligent firearm storage, State Statute 609/606.

“If you have a child, in Minnesota it’s defined as somebody under the age of 18, [and] they could gain access — that would be negligent storage,” he said. “You have to keep guns locked up from kids anyway.”

For him, it was the idea of who the proposed legislation would keep guns away from.

“Adults have a Constitutional right to be able to use guns,” he said.

He argued guns were purchased for a variety of reasons, one being for self-defense. And he said if people were required to lock guns and ammunition separately, it would take longer to retrieve the items.

He said that as much as law enforcement wanted to ensure safety for everyone at all times, self defense needed to be taken by every individual.

“We have 720 square miles here in Freeborn County, and there’s no possible way to staff enough people to make sure that every homeowner is always safe,” he said. “People have to take it upon their own responsibility for self-defense at some point.”

And not allowing people to store loaded firearms inside their homes for that defense was something he felt was unconstitutional. 

His solution to the proposed bills: throw them away.

He also said there were cases within the county of people in Freeborn County being assaulted and that could have done something.

“This isn’t a gun issue when it comes to assaulting people,” he said. “It’s a human issue. You’re not going to stop people from hurting other people, and if people don’t have a way of defending themselves from those attacks then we’re left with the criminals running rampant.”

He also believed the laws in place were sufficient in dealing with cases involving children and firearms.

“It’s already against the law to allow children access to guns,” he said.

Instead, he likened the proposed legislation to keys.

“That would be like asking do I have concerns about somebody stealing a car, so we need to make it a law that you have to lock your car in your garage and then take your keys and lock your keys in a safe inside your house to prevent somebody from stealing your car,” he said. “That’s absolutely ridiculous, just like this bill is.”

And he felt criminals should be prosecuted for stealing firearms, something he called “criminals committing criminal acts.” He also said he thought the proposals would put more restrictions on citizens.

“There’s over 70 sheriffs that I know that oppose it out of the 87 in Minnesota,” he said, while noting he hadn’t heard a response from metro area sheriffs.

Shea and 12 other sheriffs in the 6th District wrote a letter to state representatives earlier this week expressing concern for the bill.