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Senate Holsters Concealed Carry Proposal
By Michael Khoo
May 16, 2001
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Gun-control advocates have successfully blocked a move to loosen the state's handgun permitting laws. On Tuesday, supporters of so-called concealed-carry reform withdrew their bill after opponents amended the measure to preserve the discretion of local police chiefs in approving or denying handgun permits. The move has effectively killed the issue for the legislative session.

Current law offers local law enforcement agencies wide latitude in issuing concealed-weapon permits, leading critics to argue police chiefs often abuse their authority. Supporters of easing permitting rules say the answer is to revoke that discretion and require sheriffs to issue permits to anyone meeting certain eligibility criteria.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, says that cure may be worse than the disease. "The problem that we have is that there's some police chiefs out there that just don't believe people have a need to protect themselves. And clearly there is," he said. "You know, these police chiefs, they turn around, they arbitrarily just say "no." That's unfortunate for everyone. Because then you have the concealed-carry group bringing forth such, you know, radical departure in what we have right now as law."

As a compromise, Murphy offered an amendment to retain local discretion -- while establishing an accelerated appeals process for anyone denied a permit. Murphy says that would have guaranteed that Minnesotans with a legitimate safety need could carry a handgun. The Senate concurred on a 34-32 vote.

The bill's chief author, Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington, says the amendment left the legislation hollow. Once the amendment was adopted, she withdrew her package from consideration.

"Their citizens are at risk and they're going to say no to protecting themselves. I just can't believe that they'll do that!" Pariseau said. "As public officials elected to protect the rights of our people, they're handing them away! I mean, we've already had the usurpation of so many of our rights, how many more do you want to give away?"

Pariseau says while her plan would have made permits more accessible, it would also have tightened oversight of permit-holders and toughened some of the eligibility criteria. Pariseau says the proposal would have given citizens, particularly women, an opportunity to protect themselves from violent criminals.

Sen. John Hottinger, DFL-Mankato, told colleagues that argument was an attempt to drum up business for handgun manufacturers. "Try to get women who've spurned your product to think they should be buying it. Adopt rhetoric telling them they need guns for protection, or men need guns to protect their women. Get women to author the legislation. Build support by claiming against all intuition that somehow armed people on the street are going to reduce crime," he said.

Supporters of the more expansive system say Minnesotans have nothing to fear from permit holders. They say experiences in other states indicate permit holders are less likely to run afoul of the law than the average citizen. Sen. Doug Johnson, DFL-Tower, said defeating the bill would only tip the advantage to criminals.

"Today the situation is bad people, violent people, have guns. They've got the guns. And they're going to have the guns," Johnson said. "And why should we deny good, law-abiding Minnesota citizens to join people in over 30 states that have this right, to have this privilege, to have personal security."

Earlier this session, the House passed the concealed-carry legislation and Gov. Jesse Ventura indicated he would have signed the bill if it had arrived on his desk. Their support, and the close Senate vote, has supporters promising to revisit the issue next year.

Michael Khoo covers politics for Minnesota Public Radio. Reach him/her via e-mail at