Gov. Mark Dayton won’t be too hasty with his veto pen for the so-called Castle bill that significantly broadens gun rights by expanding the justification for self-defense.
He told state Rep. Tony Cornish, the bill’s Republican author from Good Thunder, that he would not veto the bill immediately.
But Dayton also sent a clear signal he’s all but made up his mind to veto the legislation.
“I promised Representative Cornish I would wait three days,” he said. “But I give serious weight to the unanimous opposition from law enforcement.”
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 40-23 Thursday to expand gun rights by allowing gun owners to use deadly force virtually anywhere if they perceive a threat of bodily harm. The bill does not require the individual in that situation to retreat, and makes the citizen immune from criminal prosecution. In other words: defend first, ask questions later.
Police chiefs, county attorneys and police officers have criticized the legislation, calling it a threat to their personal safety.
A provision was inserted into the bill late Thursday to deal with that criticism. The language, added by Senate author Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, provides that gun owners cannot use deadly force if the person fired on is believed to be or suspected to be a law enforcement officer.
But Cornish predicted the new language wouldn’t satisfy critics. “There will be no doubt that when the bill leaves the floor, it will answer law enforcement concerns about their safety,” Cornish said. “But I expect they will find other reasons to object.”
And Cornish was correct. John Harrington, DFL senator from St. Paul and the city’s former chief of police, voted against the bill, saying: “This will make it such that [police] have to worry about the homeowner who may have the officer in their sight. It will make people less safe.”
In defense of the bill, Cornish cited what he called “the horror stories” that circulated before the passage of legislation allowing Minnesotans to carry concealed weapons. None of those stories came true, he said.
Furthermore, he said, 38 other states have Castle bills, legislation based on the Castle Doctrine, a legal rule allowing a person to use deadly force as self-defense against an intruder in his or her home.
Last year the Republican-controlled House approved the legislation; House lawmakers will need to approve some small revisions before sending the legislation to Dayton’s desk.
But Cornish is not expecting a turnaround in the governor’s office to support the bill. If Dayton wants to talk, “I wait for his call,” Cornish said.
Responded Dayton: “My office is always open. But I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not taking the concerns of law enforcement seriously. People have the right to defend themselves but this would give citizens the right to use weapons even law enforcement doesn’t have and would make prosecution almost impossible.”