The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

December 26, 2011

Our View: Gun law leaves prosecutors vulnerable

A guy who makes late-night deliveries can carry a handgun for protection while he goes about his work, assuming he has a legal permit and his boss doesn’t mind.

County prosecutors, who try to send violent people to prison for a living, can’t carry a handgun anytime they are on the work clock.

The tragic shooting of a county prosecutor and a witness in a Grand Marais courthouse recently shows the need to amend the state’s conceal/carry gun law.

Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell was shot by Daniel Schlienz, who had just been convicted of criminal sexual conduct.

There have been other acts of violence at or near courthouses in Minnesota, often directed at prosecutors. While some courthouses have metal detectors and screen everyone coming in, most do not. Equipping courthouses with detectors is not financially feasible.

State Rep. Tony Cornish, who had been working on a bill to allow prosecutors to carry guns for protection has gotten more support and attention for the idea since the Cook County shooting. Blue Earth County Ross Arneson is among prosecutors who favor the change.

The current gun law prohibits county, city or township employees from carrying guns during work. Cornish says he doesn’t want to change that, except to make the exception for county prosecutors and assistant prosecutors.

Prosecutors — who would still have to go through the same process of getting a permit as anyone else — would be able to carry a handgun in the hallways, offices, interview rooms and other areas where they work. But it would still be up to judges’ discretion on whether to allow prosecutors to carry in the courtroom.

Cornish says he sees no reason to expand the exemption to city attorneys who don’t prosecute serious misdemeanors or felony crimes.

Considering there have been virtually no problems among average citizens who legally carry guns — despite predictions of blood flowing in the streets when the law passed six years ago — it’s difficult to imagine any problems in allowing prosecutors to carrying a gun for protection.

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