The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 20, 2013

Democracy or defense: Capitol guns debated

ST. PAUL — Minnesota residents on one side of America's divide on guns urged lawmakers Tuesday to ban civilians from bringing firearms into the state Capitol, saying citizens have a right to feel free of intimidation when they participate in the democratic process.

But citizens on the other side countered that they shouldn't have to give up their Second Amendment rights when they visit the Capitol. And they said those with carry permits have never caused security problems at the Statehouse.

They testified before an advisory committee reviewing Capitol security policies. Minnesota has long allowed anyone with a valid handgun permit to carry it at the Capitol so long as they give advance notice, and 841 people have done so. Changing that policy likely would require legislative approval. It was the committee's second hearing on the subject this month, and this time the public got to speak.

But the testimony did not appear to move the panel any closer to a decision on what actions, if any, to recommend.

"I don't feel we have any clear consensus about where we need to go and whether anything needs to be done or not," the panel's chairwoman, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, said as the hearing closed.

Several people testified they felt intimidated when they attended hearings earlier this year on legislation that would have tightened Minnesota's gun laws. They were contentious events in which officials often had to set up overflow rooms with TV screens to accommodate the crowds. Many gun control opponents legally and openly carried their guns at the hearings.

"Allowing people with loaded guns into the Capitol doesn't advance the democratic process. It shuts it down," Ann Mongoven said.

One impetus for last winter's hearings was a mass shooting last fall at Accent Signage in Minneapolis. Six people were killed by a worker who had just been fired and was able to buy his guns legally despite a history of mental illness.

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