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Gun lobby bills are an assault on public safety


The gun lobby is using the Minnesota Legislature as a playground for gun extremism. Three bills have been introduced into both chambers that elevate gun industry interests above the common good and pose a lethal threat to public safety.

Rich Cowles

As background, in Minnesota 40 percent of guns are purchased without criminal background checks, due to a federal law loophole that exempts private sales. To legally carry a gun in public, however, requires a permit, which does include background checks.

A 2016 statewide poll showed that 82 percent — including 74 percent of gun owners — support mandatory criminal background checks as a means of helping keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. We want the protection that’s resulted in over 4,000 denied carry permits, due to failed background checks, since 2005.

Two ‘Permitless Carry’ bills

Yet two “Permitless Carry” bills have been introduced that would allow these 4,000 people — and anyone else — to carry guns in public, no questions asked. (The bills’ exemption of legally “prohibited” users from permitless carry is window-dressing, since the private seller loophole makes detection impossible.) Besides annual background checks, these bills bypass other permit requirements, including minimum age (21) verification, safety training certification, permanent U.S. residency and approval by local police as not a threat to the community. 

The Bahr/Utke Permitless Carry bill (House File 0309/Senate File 0650) is essentially a Permitless Anything bill, enabling anyone to buy, own, carry (concealed or open; loaded or unloaded) or transfer any type of gun without a permit — including pistols, shotguns, rifles and assault rifles — as well as other “self-defense devices” now prohibited or regulated by state law, including tasers, switchblades, pepper spray, mace, and metal knuckles.

The Nash/Utke Permitless Carry bill (HF 0188/SF 0649) also nixes gun-free zones, including schools, churches, hospitals — even the State Fair. The bill does, however, allow for specific areas to be designated gun-free zones — wait for it: gun shops, gun shows, shooting ranges and hunting areas. This is consistent with the NRA frequently holding its annual conference in gun-free zones. Apparently, when their own lives are on the line, the gun lobby isn’t convinced of its tortured-logic arguments about needing “good guys with guns” to stop “bad guys with guns.” 

Minnesotans have also been protected by traditional self-defense laws that expect a person to remove him/herself from perceived danger, if possible, rather than opening fire. But another gun lobby bill would remove that protection as well, allowing people to shoot whenever feeling threatened, confident they’re presumed innocent.

Revokes duty to retreat

The Nash/Ruud Stand Your Ground bill (HF 0238/SF 0292) is a “shoot first, ask questions later” bill, revoking the duty to retreat and setting a subjective standard for what constitutes a threat. A person could shoot anyone other than peace officers simply because they feel afraid, even if the person posed no actual threat. It represents a grave threat to people who may be feared due to prejudice, particularly people of color and immigrants.

A study of states with Stand Your Ground laws showed no evidence of crime deterrence, while homicides increased 8 percent (2012, National Bureau of Economic Research). In Florida, the first state to enact such legislation in 2005, Stand Your Ground is associated with a 32 percent increase in firearm-related homicide (Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 2017). Researchers found that “after the law took effect, there was an abrupt and sustained increase” in homicides.

Why does Minnesota need these laws? Besides its “good guys” vs. “bad guys” mantra — in spite of repeated studies showing that guns provide no advantage in self-defense (Preventive MedicineOct. 2015) — the gun lobby argues that the right to arms is constitutionally sacrosanct; no restrictions are permitted. They point to the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case, which — in a dramatic reversal after 70 years — interpreted the Second Amendment as allowing individuals to keep handguns in their homes. 

Ruling articulated limits

What they don’t mention are the limitations the ruling articulated. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia said, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited … .” It is “… not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The decision acknowledged government’s role in establishing prohibitions regarding: firearm ownership, places guns may be carried (e.g. “sensitive places such as schools and government buildings”) and “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

These bills are out of step and out of tune with the public, which polls show supports the Second Amendment but opposes the gun lobby agenda that escalates gun violence. Let your representatives and the House Public Safety and Senate Judiciary committee members know that Minnesotans’ safety comes before gun industry profits.

Rich Cowles is a volunteer for Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in Minnesota and Everytown for Gun Safety.


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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/06/2017 - 09:42 am.


    Are any of these bills written by ALEC?

    • Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 03/07/2017 - 12:18 pm.

      No. None of these bills were written by ALEC.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/08/2017 - 08:41 am.

        Actually ALL of these laws are ALEC

        All of these laws appear to be drawn from the files of ALEC inspired “Castle Doctrine” legislation. The premise are: A) The right to own and carry a gun is universal and cannot be infringed. Hence no restrictions or background checks. B) Any attempt to restrict the right to own and carry guns prevents reasonable self defense. Hence the extension of castle doctrines beyond the home and the elimination of any duty to retreat first requirements.

        These are core principles underlying ALEC legislation, and they are clearly observable in all of these proposed laws. Conceal and carry, elimination of permits to carry, or limits on ownership, and expanded legalization of deadly force in homes and in public are all standard feature of ALEC inspired legislation.

  2. Submitted by Lee Rebuffoni on 03/06/2017 - 09:49 am.


    Sigh, why in the world do Republicans waste their time with these type of bills? There is no way Dayton will sign them, and they are just plain dangerous.

    • Submitted by John N. Finn on 03/06/2017 - 10:25 am.

      My guess…

      ….is that rather than expecting such bills to pass, it’s mainly to keep the gun control wedge issue in play.

    • Submitted by Lee Cruse on 03/08/2017 - 06:33 am.

      Proposed Laws

      Please note that the bills proposed are very mainstream in the rest of the US. In every single case, when gun control has been reduced, the number of good citizens that practice/carry/own firearms increases and the level of violent crime decreases. The bills in question have already been implemented in many states and have not been an issue. In every previous case, there have been the extreme gun control groups that have claimed things like “blood in the streets” and “the sky will fall”, however, it just does not happen.

      Also, the permit less carry law has absolutely no effect on who can own/have a firearm, only if you are legally permitted to own one that you can have it with you for self defense.

      The statement on “firearm denials” is misleading, in that on appeal about 70% of the denials were made in error and are corrected. If these remaining “denials” are important to anyone, then law enforcement needs to follow up, since false information on 4473 (federal background check form) is a already a serious federal crime (and state crime in most places).

      It is not a question as to “if they will become law” but “when they become law”.

  3. Submitted by Rick Moe on 03/06/2017 - 02:24 pm.

    Once the box has been opened…

    Does anyone really think it would stop there? The legislature is responsible for our safety.
    It is not responsible for gun product success.

  4. Submitted by Sean O'Brien on 03/06/2017 - 10:17 am.

    Thanks for drawing attention to these dangerous bills. Hopefully there is enough good sense in the house and senate to reject them.

    • Submitted by Lee Cruse on 03/08/2017 - 06:37 am.

      Dangerous BIlls?

      Exactly why do you think that law abiding citizens being able to have the tools necessary to protect themselves is “dangerous”?

      You need to note two important facts:
      1) Police/government has no duty or responsibility to protect any individual (SCOTUS ruling), so the only person responsible for your protection and the protection of the innocents around you is YOU. Big parts of that responsibility is to train, practice and have the tools necessary.

      2) Anyone interested in using a firearm to commit a violent crime will never not be armed and will not be deterred by ANY law. If you want to murder, why would a gun law make any difference?

  5. Submitted by Kevin Vick on 03/06/2017 - 10:46 am.

    Fake News

    The falsehoods and the attendant hyperbole in this “OpEd” are beyond ludicrous. A good start for Mr. Cowles would be to read the bills for comprehension and fact check the bought and paid for and/or thoroughly debunked “statistics” he’s been fed by the likes of Moms, Everytown, and the Brady bunch.

  6. Submitted by David Therkelsen on 03/06/2017 - 11:47 am.

    Fake news, all right

    It’s fortunate that the great majority of Minnesotans, and Americans, see through the NRA deceptions, and understand full well which lobby is bought and paid for.
    In light of overwhelming public support for common sense policies about gun access, it is equally unfortunate that elected officials lack the courage to do what their constituents clearly want them to do.

    • Submitted by Kevin Vick on 03/06/2017 - 10:30 pm.

      Who is Bought and Paid For?

      Total Gun Rights Lobby Expenditures = 10.5 Million
      Total Pharmaceutical/Health Products Lobby Expenditures = 3.5 Billion

      Facts are pesky things.

      • Submitted by Lee Cruse on 03/08/2017 - 06:41 am.

        Money involved

        You exactly correct in your numbers.
        Another interesting number is the money spent by groups like “Everytown”, “Mothers Demand” and Brady.

        Bloomberg as an individual has spent over 60 million to push for more gun control.
        Others, like BIll Gates and George Sorors also sped huge amounts.

        So, the idea that the NRA accomplishes things is not based on money.
        It is based on two important attributes:

        1) The agenda that they push is correct and increases safety of the “ordinary” law abiding person.
        2) 5+ million members that vote in elections

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/06/2017 - 12:51 pm.

    Let the legislative process work….

    I am so tired of the phrase “common sense” when it comes to gun laws and for those advocates who pretend to speak for “the public” and then pronounce what the “public” wants.

    • Submitted by David Therkelsen on 03/06/2017 - 01:46 pm.

      On common sense and the public

      “Common sense” is a pretty apt phrase for what we who oppose the NRA are advocating. Requiring background checks for all, keeping guns out of the hands of felons and those with certain mental illnesses, restricting military-grade assault weapons are all common sense, and none tread on the 2nd Amendment.

      And it’s utterly clear what “the public” wants: common-sense regulation of lethal weapons. How many polls, all demonstrating this, do we need?

      • Submitted by Rich Seibert on 03/07/2017 - 09:55 am.

        mental health gun control

        There are over 370 “mental disorders” listed in the latest version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) The list includes “Tobacco Addiction Disorder” among other equally mundane and ridiculous so-called “mental illnesses.”

        If the DSM is the standard by which politicians wishes to remove our rights to own guns, then I’d guess 90% of the American people could probably be classified with a mental disorder of one kind or another.


        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/13/2017 - 02:01 pm.


          As a gun owner and defender of all of the amendments to the Constitution, I’m beginning to wonder if that 90% number wouldn’t be a good start. If you think anyone is seriously going to put “Tobacco Addition Disorder” on the no-go list for gun-ownership, you’re really being paranoid. Interestingly, I’m pretty sure anyone with a disorder that includes “paranoid” in it in the DSM should be on the no-go list. On second thought, every time I get see a cigarette butt bounce off the road, I’m reminded that many of the smokers I know are pretty unconcerned about the well-being of anyone else. Maybe you’re not being paranoid…just practical.

          • Submitted by Nick Etzler on 05/09/2017 - 11:55 pm.


            I have my doubts that you’re a “defender of all the amendments to the Constitution” if you’re taking that stance. Minnesota “recently” had -retroactive- legislation (arguably an unconstitutional thing) regarding registration of firearms, that was defeated, so I’m sorry but I don’t see how genuine concern crosses into paranoia.

            My own personal opinion is that, given the correct population of legislators in sufficient number, they might very well include “Tobacco Addiction Disorder” as a reason to preclude any exercise of 2nd Amendment rights in our state. If you can’t out-right ban the ownership of firearms, despite that being the ultimate goal, then what’s the next best thing? I think the modern “left” (and it is nothing of the sort in practice) has made that agenda quite clear, I’m opposed to any further restriction on inalienable rights because, simply, the government has made it obvious that it cannot be trusted.

            I must remind you that the government is, and always has been, a necessary evil and we must be vigilant against it growing beyond it’s intended purpose. I’m sure there’s something to be said about given inches and taken miles here.

  8. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 03/06/2017 - 01:31 pm.

    What public purpose do any of these bills further?

    The U.S. Supreme Court has construed the Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” onlyto limit states from requiring permits to own and possess a handgun in one’s home. That is really only a modest extension of the Fourth Amendment’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures which is also primarily a right of privacy in one’s home. As Mr. Cowles states in his piece, the late Justice Scalia cautioned that he Second Amendment does not limit State authority to protect the public health, safety and welfare by reasonable regulations including the permitting and carrying of firearms in places outside the home.

    So what public purpose do these bills have to protecting the public health, safety and welfare? The logical extension of these bills is to make gun ownership and possession compulsory since the State will have abdicated any role in public safety. The goal is apparently the NRA Hobbesian vision of America- a dystopia where life is nasty, brutish and short, ruled by gangs of vigilante bullies brandishing powerful firearms.

  9. Submitted by Scott Hagen on 03/06/2017 - 02:11 pm.

    More fear…

    Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine do not equal ‘shoot first ask questions later’. Just more fear mongering. Those of us who are responsibly armed Americans believe in training and reasonable use of firearms.

  10. Submitted by Dustin Doyle on 03/06/2017 - 03:04 pm.

    Fake News

    Several statements of fact about these bills are completely false. The bit about Gun Free Zones is particularly egregious.

    More than half of the states have self-defense laws similar to what we are trying to pass in Minnesota. Permitless carry has been around forever in Vermont and since 2003 in AK. It has since grown in popularity and has not caused the problems speculated in this article.

  11. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 03/07/2017 - 12:09 am.

    Fake news

    The conservative definition – any facts that conflicts with their preconceived notions. This kind of fake news is written by those who have studied the subject and provide supporting data that conflicts with what conservatives. Prime example. Obama isn’t a Christian or a native born American – conservatives know this isn’t true.

    The progressive definition. A claim that something happen where there is no evidence that it did. Often started by someone to hurt the target. For example, an unsupported remark by a talk show host is published a an alt-right news site and used by Trump to claim his phones were tapped – without checking with the FBI chief whether it was true (he says it is not). The claim was fake news, the report in the chain of events sadly true,

    Great article on these gun bills. A clear description with supporting arguments and data suggesting the harm they do,

    Point one – guns in houses of worship. That violates our freedom of religion. Churches are peaceful places – sanctuaries from violence. Why would a gun show be a gun free zone, and a church not. Obviously churches can chose not to ban guns, but place the rights of gun owners above religious freedom. Make the case for that.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword. If you want to inflict guns on society, stand up and allow them at gun shows first. Having a shoot out at a gun show might be enough to wake people up.

    Point two – stand your ground. Bigots feel threatened by anyone who is different and they view as less important than them. What prevents anyone with hate in their heart from claiming a threat and committing murder with no consequences. As Trump just given older adults who suffer from mental conditions who cannot manage the right to bear arms, where does it end?

    There are millions of gun owners who are responsible, but if they want to loosen gun restrictions, when more than 30,000 Americans already die already and mass murder by armed terrorists is a constant threat, how can they or this legislation be considered responsible?

  12. Submitted by Greg Price on 03/07/2017 - 07:46 am.

    Would love to see the opposing view?

    OK MinnPost…we have the obligatory liberal send off on bad people and badder guns…

    How about a Community Voices column from the opposing view?

    Anyone up for their opportunity to rebut?

    Greg Price

  13. Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/08/2017 - 08:03 am.

    Talking Points Debunked Long Ago

    “As background, in Minnesota 40 percent of guns are purchased without criminal background checks, …”

    The author provides no backing for this assertion, likely because he has read this analysis about it.

    Excerpt: “President Barack Obama, for example, claimed that “as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check.” The president’s gun-control plan, “Now Is The Time,” also says that “studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from this requirement.”
    But that figure is based on an analysis of a nearly two-decade-old survey of less than 300 people that essentially asked participants whether they thought the guns they had acquired — and not necessarily purchased — came from a federally licensed dealer. And one of the authors of the report often cited as a source for the claim — Philip Cook of Duke University — told our friends at that he has “no idea” whether the “very old number” applies today or not.”

    Regarding Permitless Carry, also known as Vermont Carry, Constitutional Carry, Unrestricted Carry, it is the law in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming (residents only) Montana (outside city limits), New Mexico (unloaded weapon & loaded magazine, vehicle carry), Oklahoma (residents of constitutional carry states). The author makes no mention of this fact, as it would make the prospect of such a law not seem so radical as he portrays.

  14. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/09/2017 - 03:24 pm.

    Not sure

    What it is, but every now and them we have to go through the flat earth dialogue again how the earth is flat, (more guns make us safer). And for some reason folks are suppose to read/listen attentively to the supposed flat earth philosophy instead of calling it what it is. The real issue folks want a personal right to kill someone because they are afraid of their difference. Kind of like the beer mug smash in the face few months back, lady felt she had a right to smash a beer mug in another ladies face because she wasn’t speaking “American”. This dialogue is no different, I want judge jury executioner authority because I am afraid, my rights are superior to yours. We all know dead people have a hard time giving their side of the story! This was clearly manifested in the Travon Martin case, I have a gun I’m afraid, I now have the right to kill you, my rights are more important than yours, only 1 key witness!

    “Those of us who are responsibly armed Americans believe in training and reasonable use of firearms.” These are called police, are you suggesting private citizens are better trained etc. able to figure out the difference than the police? How does any one know who, “Those of us” are? How do we know you really are sane? None of you ever go over the edge? No responsible folks ever shoot other folks?

    2nd amendment rights: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
    Seems most gun totter’s never read this: When are all you folks going to join the militia? Better to just ignore that part and pick and chose the parts you like?

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/09/2017 - 10:28 pm.

      Not Sure

      … if there is a point in there. This is a column regarding gun lobby bills. If all guns are banned and confiscated, assaults with beer mugs are likely to rise. Is that the point of the reference to the beer mug smash in the face?

      Regarding the 2nd amendment, take a look at the punctuation. The SCOTUS understands it.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/10/2017 - 02:50 pm.

      A point of comparison

      Your assault with a beer mug story in the midst of a gun lobby bill discussion is an interesting tack, but it provides a point of comparison. Looking at this anecdote, we see a person whose
      actions were alcohol induced and motivated by race/bias. She pleaded guilty to third degree assault. Banning beer mugs would seem like a common sense solution to prevent such an assault, though a dinner plate could be weaponized by a woman drinking beer from a paper cup. Alcohol – ban that; wait, that experiment has been run in the United States. The racism/bias of this woman, the root cause of the assault, is a much more intractable problem, and one not solvable by a legislature. Had this incident involved a gun, the gun would be the problem to be solved; it would be the beer mug.

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