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Handgun Bill is Down, Not Out
By Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
April 6, 2001
Part of MPR's coverage of Session 2001
Click for audio RealAudio

A 'concealed carry' handgun bill, that was picking up steam at the Capitol, was dealt a major blow Friday. After two hours of debate, a key Senate committee defeated the bill, making it much trickier to get the bill through the Legislature. But supporters say the proposal is far from dead.

Joan Peterson (shown)tells the committee that her sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 1992, and Peterson says she doubts that carrying a gun would have helped.Listen to her testimony.

Helen Hendrickson, who's been denied a concealed weapons permit, says if criminals aren't sure if someone is armed or not, they might think twice about committing crimes. Listen to her testimony.

ALTHOUGH 'CONCEALED CARRY' HAS CLEARED four House committees and is likely to pass the full House on Monday, the Senate Crime Prevention Committee rejected the bill on a divided voice vote that appeared to be along party lines. It would require law enforcement agencies to grant concealed handgun permits to qualified mentally competent Minnesotans. Mary Jane Sullivan of the Women's Firearms Alliance says under current law, sheriffs use their discretion to deny permits to people who want to carry a gun for personal protection.

"One woman caught a man cutting a screen of her bathroom window coming in the house. She beat him off with a baseball bat, called the police, and wanted a permit to carry a gun while she walked from her parking garage to her house. She couldn't get a permit," Sullivan told the committee.

Concealed carry supporters say the bill simply makes the gun-permit process uniform throughout the state. But opponents say arming more citizens won't reduce violence. Joan Peterson of Duluth is a member of the Million Mom March, which backs tougher gun laws. Peterson's sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 1992, and Peterson says she doubts that carrying a gun would have helped.

"If it had been in her car, she would've had to run from inside of his house; not possible with a gun aimed at her head. If it had been in her purse, her body was found in his basement, her purse not near the crime scene," Peterson said.

Opponents of the bill say it would allow an additional 100,000 Minnesotans to carry weapons nearly everywhere in society. But Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who voted for the bill, says law-abiding citizens should have that right.

"If any bill deserved to be finally defeated in committee, it's this bill,"

- Howard Orenstein
Citizens for a Safer Minnesota
"We made mention that this bill, if it was in effect, would allow people to have guns at day-care providers and sporting events and restaurants, and even the Xcel Energy Center. But let's not fool ourselves. The criminals are there, and they're armed, and our citizens are not," Limmer said.

Leaders of Minnesota's law-enforcement associations oppose the bill, but the bill's sponsor says she has a thick stack of letters of support from rank-and-file officers. Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington, says despite the committee's dismissal of her bill, she's not giving up, and will try to find a way to bring the bill up on the Senate floor.

"I have a couple of floor procedures, I'll try everything, and I'll try it more than once," she said.

Pariseau says if she can get the bill to the full Senate, she thinks it will pass. But leaders of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota doubt Pariseau has the votes on the floor. The group's board president, former DFL Rep. Howard Orenstein, says he thinks the Senate will listen to the overwhelming majority of Minnesotans who, according to polls, oppose concealed carry legislation.

"The committee vote was fairly decisive, I hope that'll reflect the will of the entire Senate. Certainly in any legislative body, no bill is dead until the final gavel drops, but if any bill deserved to be finally defeated in committee, it's this bill," according to Orenstein.

If supporters are successful in finding a way to get the bill through the Senate, it has a good chance of becoming law. Gov. Ventura, who has his own permit to carry a gun, has said if the bill lands on his desk, he will sign it.