Conrad deFiebre, Star Tribune
It took the longest debate
in memory on the floor of the Minnesota Senate, but a bill
to make permits to carry handguns in public available to
more people gained final legislative approval Monday and
was signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
It is to go
into effect in 30 days. Eventually, according to an official
legislative estimate, it could increase the number of people
licensed to tote guns on Minnesota streets from fewer than
12,000 now to about 90,000.
For 7 1/2 hours
Monday, Senate DFLers railed against the measure and the
parliamentary legerdemain that brought it directly from
the House with no opportunity for Senate amendments. Six
DFL senators even donned bulletproof vests as they denounced
the bill as "insanity," "lunacy" and
Republican sponsors, led by Sen. Pat Pariseau of Farmington,
dismissed the protests as fear-mongering and doomsday predictions,
maintaining that 34 other states have adopted similar measures
without catastrophic consequences.
want to have a gun in my purse, that should be my
choice, not the sheriff's,"
said Sen. Julianne Ortman,
In the end,
a small group of outstate DFL senators who favor gun rights
bucked their leadership's opposition and tipped the balance
in favor of the bill. The vote for final passage was 37
next is a sweeping reversal of Minnesota handgun policy
that has been in effect since 1975. Under that system, police
chiefs and sheriffs have had broad discretion to grant or
deny permits for occupational needs or personal protection.
In some areas,
especially the Twin Cities, critics say, authorities have
abused that discretion by denying permits to nearly all
Under the new
system, sheriffs will be required to issue permits to all
applicants 21 or older who meet largely objective standards
of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency, handgun safety
training and a criminal and mental health background check.
Supporters vs. foes
final victory defied formal opposition from more than 300
churches and other groups in Minnesota, including the three
major statewide police associations, city councils, and
health and education groups.
senators on both sides of the issue, the bill was supported
by only three organizations: the National Rifle Association
(NRA), a local group called Concealed Carry Reform Now!
and the Republican Party of Minnesota. But Pariseau said
many individuals and street police officers also back the
thousands of violent crimes in the 20 Minnesota counties
where handgun permits have been most restricted and added:
"It's time that we allow people to prevent the violence
with statistics of their own: Minnesota now stands eighth-lowest
in the nation in the rate of firearm deaths from homicide,
suicide and accident. All of the states with better rates
have gun laws similar to the one Minnesota is abandoning.
The dozen states with the highest rates of firearm deaths
all have the system Minnesota is adopting.
state will forever be changed, and not for the positive,"
said Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, a Lutheran pastor.
"What are we scared of? Why are we so fearful? Why
should violence beget violence? I'm supposed to arm myself
and get even? It does not make any sense to me."
the House Republican tactic of amending the measure onto
an unrelated bill previously passed by the Senate was branded
"a conceal and carry approach to legislation"
by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.
meant that DFLers could criticize but not change details
of the bill that they said made it worse than similar laws
in many other states. For example, critics said, public
parks, playgrounds, city halls and the State Fair may not
bar guns from their premises, while malls and churches face
a cumbersome process of posting signs and verbally informing
licensed gun-carriers that their firearms aren't welcome.
worry about honest people next to me in church carrying
guns," said Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel,
a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. "But I would worry
about the criminals."
Sen. Jane Ranum,
DFL-Minneapolis, said the bill's lack of a Minnesota residency
requirement will make the state a magnet for gun-lovers
from the handgun-restrictive neighboring states of Wisconsin,
Iowa and Illinois.
bill was written by the gun industry and it's all about
their profits," she said. "The Midwest is the
one place they haven't infiltrated yet. This will make Minnesota
the place to come and get your gun."
criticized the bill's limits on evidence of applicants'
dangerousness that sheriffs may consider in deciding whether
to issue permits. For example, alleged crimes that a person
has been acquitted of cannot be factored in.
a sheriff could not weigh any of the evidence presented
in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson should he seek a permit,
"O.J. Simpson was not
seeking a permit," Pariseau replied. "But maybe
his wife needed one."
Conrad deFiebre is at email@example.com.