The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 20, 2013

No need to ban guns at Capitol

Why it matters: Gov. Dayton is correct in saying there are no compelling threats to drastically tighten security at Minnesota's Capitol.

The Mankato Free Press

---- — To many, the thought of someone carrying a gun in the Minnesota Capitol seems an inherently bad idea.

Many others believe legally carrying a gun into the seat of state government not only is perfectly acceptable, but can even help deter others from violence.

Those differing views were the subject of legislative hearings last week as lawmakers looked at whether to change the current policy of allowing those with a valid carry permit to take guns into the Capitol.

Considering the trade-off between tighter security and keeping the Capitol an easily accessible building, we side with Gov. Mark Dayton who sees no compelling reason to restrict those who are legally carrying guns.

When the Legislature debated — and then approved — the permit to carry law 10 years ago, both sides had passionate and valid arguments. Unnecessary and dangerous said opponents. A personal right and necessary for self protection argued supporters.

After a decade of experience, it’s clear the bloodshed and mayhem predicted by many hasn’t occurred. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension numbers show that of those with carry permits, only a minuscule number have ever pulled the trigger in self defense.

While those who would like to tighten security at the Capitol argue that people carrying guns inside the building can create an intimidating atmosphere or pose a danger, they offer no evidence of such intimidation or danger.

And people are not allowed to simply walk into the Capitol unannounced —they must notify Capitol security of their intent to carry in the building.

Those who have gone through the training and background checks required to get a legal permit have not shown to be a serious risk, inside the Capitol or anywhere else in the state.

Dayton notes that barring legal gun carrying in the Capitol would inherently signal that tighter security is required to screen everyone who enters the building. After all, if law-abiding citizens with a permit need to be more closely monitored, certainly anyone coming through the doors who could have evil intentions would need to be more thoroughly vetted. That would require very expensive metal detectors and individual screening, causing delays and the inherent intimidation felt by anyone who’s gone through airport security screenings.

Minnesota’s Capitol has always been a very accessible building for citizens who want and deserve access to their representatives and to the process of law making. Trained Capitol security officers have provided a level of scrutiny and screening necessary to prevent violence at the Capitol while maintaining its accessibility.

There’s no evidence at the time that those security measures need to be significantly increased.

Other views on this topic

“There are good arguments that it decreases the possibility of bad things happening.”

“What makes us special in Minnesota is our access to elected officials,” he said. “We have a long and storied history of direct access.”

— Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine

“There are so many controversial items being debated at the Capitol, we don’t need to bring weapons into that environment,”

— Steven Swensen, retired U.S. Marshal

“Newtown didn’t know or expect that they were going to have a problem either.” ... “We need to be prepared in some way. We can’t just keep pushing it aside.”

— Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon