By Tim Krohn
---- — ST. PAUL — Rep. Tony Cornish, author of the bill that allows Minnesotans to get a permit to carry guns in public, said those seeking to bar guns from the state Capitol are looking for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, who chaired hearings on the issue Tuesday, favors limiting people from carrying guns in the Capitol and has said it is an issue that hasn't been dealt with by the Legislature.
Cornish, who was on a long list of people to testify but wasn't able to, said he would have told Prettner Solon and others favoring restrictions that the issue was thoroughly dealt with in the original legislation.
"The intent in the bill was to allow permit to carry on Capitol grounds. It specifically says that. Legislative intent is important and unless there's some reason to change it, it shouldn't be," said the Good Thunder Republican.
Cornish noted that Capitol security officials testified that in the eight years permit holders have carried guns in the Capitol there have been no incidents.
Cornish said he detected little enthusiasm by most lawmakers to change the current law.
"Even the governor said he wasn't in favor (of limiting guns in the Capitol)," Cornish said
"It seems like there were no legislators anxious to tackle the issue."
Cornish said the most he sees coming from the hearings is tightening one area of the law when it comes to guns in the Capitol. Currently, people must simply notify Capitol security that they intend to carry a gun. He said there is no requirement that they produce their carry permit. That could become a requirement, he said.
Cornish, a permit holder, said he carries a gun "about 100 percent of the time" while at the Capitol and elsewhere. He always conceals his gun under a suit coat, although the law allows permit holders to openly carry guns. A few people attending Tuesday's hearing did openly carry guns.
"I'm not in favor of carrying openly, even though people have the right to."
Cornish said he's never heard anyone complain about him carrying a gun and hasn't heard any complaints about the other lawmakers and staff members who carry.