Minnesota’s Democrat-Farmer-Labor majority is rushing to enact a number of new gun control measures into law this session, with hearings scheduled on Thursday and Friday this week to consider “red flag” firearms confiscation, “universal background checks”, magazine bans, and more. Friday’s hearing will focus on Gov. Tim Walz’s omnibus public safety bill, which is chock-full of new restrictions on legal gun owners, while Thursday’s hearing (announced with short notice late on Monday) will feature several standalone anti-gun measures.
Second Amendment advocates, including the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and its members, have been vociferously opposing these intended infringements throughout the session, but we’re also starting to see many county sheriffs share their own concerns about the legislation; most notably when it comes to a bill mandating how gun owners must store their firearms.
The gun storage requirement bill has provoked a particularly strong response from Greater Minnesota law enforcement and activists. If enacted, that bill would require gun owners to store their firearm locked away separately from ammunition.
Violation of the proposed law would constitute a misdemeanor at a minimum, with the potential for charges to be upgraded to a felony if an unsecured firearm were to be used in a violent crime, or fall into the hands of an individual barred from possessing a firearm.
Any requirement for gun owners to store their firearms in a way that renders them useless for home defense isn’t going to stand up in court. The Supreme Court rejected a similar storage requirement imposed by Washington, D.C. in the Heller decision, though the Minnesota bill attempts to get around SCOTUS precedent by “allowing” firearms to be loaded in the home as long as they’re being carried by a gun owner or “under the control” of the owner or an authorized user. Many sheriffs in the state say the measure would be almost impossible to enforce, while putting those in compliance in danger if they ever need to protect themselves in their home.
“Certain counties might only have one deputy working,” said Rice County Sheriff Jesse Thomas. “If you need help and they’re 30, 20 minutes out, whatever it might be. So, it kind of limits what you can do.”
In a letter to local state representatives, Sheriff Thomas, Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele, Le Sueur County Sheriff Brett Mason, Waseca County Sheriff Jay Dulas, Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly and other sheriffs from across southeast Minnesota further argued that the bill “infringes on the rights of lawful gun owners and is a clear overreach of government.”
“We’re not going into people’s homes to try to regulate what they’re doing with their firearms and infringe on their constitutional rights,” said Le Sueur County Sheriff Brett Mason. “That’s ridiculous.”
The sheriffs further noted that with regards to child safety specifically, current law already makes it a gross misdemeanor for a gun owner to leave their firearm in a place where they know, or should reasonably know, that a child could gain access to it.
While keeping loaded guns out of the hands of children may certainly be important, the sheriffs argued that law-abiding gun owners should be trusted with the responsibility of choosing the best option for storing their guns given their situation.
“This unnecessary bill, if passed, would make responsible, lawful gun owners criminals for not locking up their firearms,” the letter said.
Well, yes. That’s the point of the bill, or at least a feature and not a bug for its sponsors. It’s also far from the only threat that responsible gun owners in the state are facing, and I hope that these sheriffs will be just as vocal in their opposition to the other anti-2A measures that will be before committees this week, including the governor’s public safety bill, which includes billions of dollars in funding for local law enforcement but also contains a number of anti-gun provisions like banning magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, raising the age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, universal background checks, and imposing an Extreme Risk Protection Order allowing for the “temporary” confiscation of firearms without a criminal conviction or an adjudication of mental illness.
In a video posted Monday evening, the MN Gun Owners Caucus’s Rob Doar says he’s concerned that the omnibus bill was written to provide cover to several rural Democrat lawmakers who’ve not taken a public position in support of any of the anti-gun bills currently under consideration.
SURPRISE GUN CONTROL HEARINGS #MNLEG https://t.co/cAe8RvO6hs
— MN Gun Owners Caucus (@mnguncaucus) March 21, 2023
It’s great to see sheriffs around the state speak up about the dangers inherent in the gun storage bill, but they need to be just as vocal when it comes to these other infringements introduced at the statehouse. Second Amendment activists and those who don’t believe that the state can ban its way to safety should be speaking out as well, and I’m hoping for a strong turnout at the state capitol on Saturday when the MNGOC hosts its Rally to Defend the Second Amendment. The outcome for these bills is still very much in question given the scant one-seat majority for the DFL in the state Senate, and the activism of gun owners can have a very real impact on the future of their Second Amendment rights.