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Non-profits sue to overturn gun law
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Molly Greenman, president of Family and Children's Service, says her agency helps many victims of abuse. She says her organization objects to having to post signs at the door to ban guns. (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
Five non-profit agencies have filed suit to throw out Minnesota's concealed handgun law. The law, which passed last year, requires sheriffs to issue concealed weapons permits to mentally-competent adults who pass a background check and go through training. The groups say the law violates their rights to operate their property as they see fit. Supporters of the law say the lawsuits are a desperate attempt to get rid of a law that isn't causing any problems.

St. Paul, Minn. — Catholic Charities, the YWCA of Minneapolis and three other agencies say Minnesota's concealed handgun law violates their free speech rights. If they don't want guns in their buildings, they must post signs that state that they, ban guns in these premises. Nancy Hite, the CEO of the YWCA, says the signs detract from the positive image her organization wants to present, and the law prohibits agencies like hers from banning guns from their parking lots.

"Guns and children do not mix. It is our position that guns and an environment promoting physical activity and wellness do not mix. It is our position that people in our parking lots have a right to know that the car next to them does not have a gun, and that the gym bag in the locker room does not have a weapon in it," she says.

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Image Says law is illogical

The non-profits join lawsuits already filed by churches and religious groups and the city of Minneapolis. The agencies are represented by three of the state's biggest law firms, Dorsey and Whitney, Faegre and Benson and Lindquist and Vennum, who say they're working pro bono.

Joe Hammell, from Dorsey and Whitney, says the concealed carry law violates the agencies' basic constituional rights.

"By this law, the state of Minnesota tries to tell these organizations that they must allow people with guns on their property whether they like it or not. This sort of state-sanctioned armed invasion of private property is unconstitutional under both the state of Minnesota constitution and the U.S. Constitution," according to Hammell.

Supporters of the law say the agencies don't have to allow people with guns on their property, they simply have to post the signs.

"They have to give you notice of what their policy is; that makes perfect sense," says Joe Olson, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, which pushed for the law, and a Hamline University law professor. He says the state can specify the way the no-gun signs should look.

"You have to put up a sign that says fire exit. You can't put 'avoid the heat, go this way.' The state can do this. They do it all the time. This is desperation," he says.

Olson says opponents of the law are filing "frivolous lawsuits because they don't like guns." He says since the law took effect last May, there haven't been any violent incidents caused by permit-holders. About 17,000 permits have been issued during that time.

"I think it's kind of silly, it's kind of ridiculous, I'll be criticized for saying that, but I just don't see any factual basis for any fear. And I'm perplexed that this continues," says the bill's sponsor, Rep. Linda Boudreau, R-Fairibault.

Boudreau says the agencies didn't have the right to ban guns from their parking lots even before the law was passed last year.

She doesn't believe the repeal effort will succeed.

The Senate sponsor of the "repeal conceal" bill, Minneapolis DFLer Wes Skoglund, says he doesn't have the votes to pass his bill .

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