ST. PAUL (AP) -- Reality encroached on rhetoric Monday as a school shooting in California overshadowed three gun-related events at the Minnesota Capitol.
"This is the kind of thing we all abhor," John Caile, a member of a group called Concealed Carry Reform Now, said of the shooting. "However, it is sad to comment that California already has among the most stringent gun controls."
He said keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens isn't the solution to tragedies like the 15-year-old freshman who opened fire at his high school in a San Diego suburb, killing two and wounding 13 others.
A proposal that would make it possible for most Minnesotans to qualify for a permit to carry a handgun once they are 21 years old was introduced on the House floor.
But a news conference scheduled by the bill's sponsors was canceled out of respect for the victims of the school shooting.
Current law gives sheriffs and police chiefs considerable discretion in determining who can carry handguns. In general, the rules hold that the gun must be necessary for occupational use or personal safety and that the applicant must be at least 18 years old.
The bill, which will get a hearing soon before the House Crime Prevention Committee, would put the burden on government to prove that someone shouldn't be allowed carry a gun instead of the other way around. Applicants would have to be 21, pass a federal and state background check and undergo training.
"The reality is, the law itself is being made much more stringent," Caile said.
He said that if Gov. Jesse Ventura -- who has plenty of personal security -- was issued a carry permit, others should be able to get them more freely.
Ventura supports loosening handgun permit rules for non-criminals who complete gun-safety training and skills testing. The bill introduced Thursday meets five of the six guidelines Ventura said would need to be included before he would sign a bill.
The one provision that Ventura said he would require that could cause a snag would hold permit holders liable if someone else used their handguns illegally. That would apply even if the permit holder's weapon was lost or stolen if it wasn't reported to the police.
Rep. Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis, strongly opposes the legislation. "More guns is not the answer," he said. "The bill they are talking about would allow people to carry guns anywhere."
Caile said the proposal was simply a way to make state handgun laws more objective and uniform, instead of leaving it up to local police or sheriffs to decide.
Under the proposal, the sheriff would be the only one to issue a permit. People currently ineligible to possess a gun under state or federal law, such as felons, still would be prohibited.
In other cases, such as when an applicant has a history of domestic violence, the sheriff would have to take the applicant to court to keep him or her from getting the permit.
The bill is likely to pass the GOP-controlled House, but may have a tougher time in the Senate, which has a DFL majority.
Members of the Million Mom March said they opposed the concealed carry legislation.
So did members of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, who held a separate news conference.
"We need to keep firearms out of the hands of children, criminals and the suicidal," said Jill Heins Nesvold of the Minnesota Institute of Public Health.
Citizens for a Safer Minnesota is preparing legislation that would require more safety features such as locking devices, trigger resistance, chamber load indicators and personalized finger printing.
On the Net:
Minnesota Concealed Carry Reform Now http://www.mnccrn.org
Minnesota Institute of Public Health http://www.miph.org
Minnesota Legislature http://www.leg.state.mn.us
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