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City officials want changes in new gun law
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Duluth Mayor Gary Doty says he wants the opportunity to prohibit guns on city property. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
Several city officials and local police chiefs are asking the Legislature to change the concealed carry that law that will go into effect on May 28. They're urging lawmakers to grant cities the authority to forbid guns on city property. They say they want the same rights granted to local schools and private businesses. Supporters of gun rights say the proposal would undermine their ability to create a statewide uniform law for permit holders.

St. Paul, Minn. — The new law would allow private businesses to prohibit guns on their property if they post a sign at every entranceway. Permit holders won't be able to carry a gun on school property unless they're storing their gun in the trunk of their car.

Duluth Mayor Gary Doty says he wants the same opportunity to prohibit guns on city property.

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Image Overreacting?

"Things get pretty hot sometimes in the council chambers and I don't mean the temperature, I mean the tempers. And they flare. We often have council chambers full of 100 people and there are some pretty angry people who come to the front to speak to our groups. I believe we need to control whether or not somebody is going to be able to bring a gun into that meeting," Doty said.

Other city officials complain that the law is ambigious. They say guns can be prohibited at a public recreation center if it's for a school function. They would be permitted otherwise. Others say it could also present problems for joint city/county buildings. Permit holders need permission to carry a weapon into a county building, courthouse and the Capitol.

Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight says the bill has too many inconsistencies that will make it difficult for the police and permit holders to know where a person can carry a gun.

"We are left to wonder. On May 28 this becomes law. I can tell you now that I, my staff, my colleagues and all of those charged to protect you have no clear idea as to where we're going with this. And quite frankly, I'm frightened," says Knight.

"This whole law was brought up because there have been inconsistencies in current law," says Sen. Pat Pariseau, who says attempts to restrict permit holders from carrying in certain spots goes against the spirit of the new law. She wanted to change current law because local law enforcement had too much discretion in determining who could get a permit.

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Image Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight

The Farmington Republican says the new law will provide uniform access to any law-abiding Minnesotan over the age of 21. Pariseau says she opposes any changes to the law.

"If you're going to have a law, how do you deal with the patchwork? If you have cities of every size and every stripe having a different kind of patchwork, the list would be endless. Nobody would be able to know where they could be safe by being a law abiding citizen and carry a weapon for their own self defense," she said.

Pariseau also says the new law isn't changing anything, since current permit holders can carry on public property. Opponents say they have greater concerns because state estimates say the number of permit holders will increase from 12,000 to 90,000.

Joe Olson, with the group Concealed Carry Reform Now, says people are overreacting. He says convicted felons, people with mental health problems and those who are considered a danger to themselves or others can't get a permit.

Applicants would have to undergo a background check and specific training every five years in order to get a permit. Olson says Florida has 850,000 permit holders and 156 people have had their permits revoked.

"We're talking about people who have a lifelong history of being good guys. They are not going to be a problem. They aren't a problem anywhere else and if any of those city officials would just get their head out of the clouds and look at what's actually happened in other jurisdictions then they'll know the sky is not falling. This is not going to be a problem," Olson says.

Olson says he'd be willing to consider changes to the law next session if there are any problems.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says he doesn't want to wait that long. He wants lawmakers to make sure they know everything that's in the bill before it becomes law.

"I think this is an example of one of the things that happens a lot when you pass laws is that laws are sometimes imperfect and legislators say 'Gee, let's clean that up next session.' Unfortunately, the consequences here I believe we'll be cleaning up a lot more than law by the next session if this isn't cleared up now," according to Rybak.

One DFL senator, who was considered a swing vote on the bill, said he won't consider any changes at this time. He says he'd reconsider the issue if Gov. Pawlenty suggests changes.

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