On April 28, 2003, Gov. Pawlenty signed into law the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act, commonly referred to as the "conceal and carry law." I would like to present a few of the reasons why these legal changes became necessary.
Permits to carry handguns were not required in Minnesota prior to 1975. Any law-abiding citizen who could meet the legal requirements of the time for owning a firearm could carry it with him or in his vehicle. This degree of personal freedom now exists only in Alaska and Vermont. Minnesota enacted a discretionary permit process in 1975, and it seemed to work pretty well for several years. Citizens were required to present a reason for the permit, and local law enforcement was responsible for evaluation and issuance. Renewal was required annually, and some jurisdictions charged fees. By the early 1980s, attitudes in some jurisdictions, especially the metropolitan areas, began to change. Indeed, a former attorney general was active in lobbying county sheriffs and police chiefs to practice denial as the primary position. By the early 1990s these abuses of power against law-abiding citizens exercising responsibility for their own personal safety became the rule, rather than the exception in some locales. Obtaining a permit for a self-defense firearm became a matter of where a citizen resided, as opposed to his background and qualifications.
In 1996, a grassroots political effort began working to change this unfair and inconsistent application of Minnesota firearms regulation. Several efforts to amend the law in effect failed to pass the legislative process. In 2000, the governor obtained a permit to carry, but little was done to assist the average law-abiding citizen. Led by Rep. Linda Boudreau and Sen. Pat Pariseau, a group of political activists under the organization Concealed Carry Reform Now, continued to lobby for fair treatment. The Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act was killed by the senate majority leader in 2001, but was finally passed in 2003, due to the diligent efforts and hard work of CCRN, supporting legislators, and the National Rifle Association. All of our local area senators and representative voted in favor of the new law. (A more complete history of the political activity leading to this legislation can be found by accessing the following web site: www.mnccr.org.)
This legislation is referred to as a "shall issue" process, as opposed to the previous "discretionary issue" process. Our law is very similar to the 36 other states that now have "shall issue" permit regulations. Law-abiding citizens must complete a prescribed course taught by instructors certified under the statue. Courses cover all facets of legalities and responsibilities when carrying a self-defense handgun. Applicants must demonstrate reasonable proficiency and safety in handling and shooting a handgun, and must not have a history of criminal activity or mental instability. The county sheriff performs a background check on each applicant and issues or denies the permit based on the specific criteria in the statute. A permit now lasts five years, eliminating annual renewal, picture-taking, paperwork, and fees.
For citizens of Crow Wing, Cass and surrounding counties, the previous permitting process was generally applied in a fair and consistent manner by local jurisdictions. Unfair denials did not occur here as they did in other areas of the state. Minnesota now has guaranteed such consistent application of the law throughout the state.
Population growth in our area brings an increase in crime, drug trafficking and gang activity. The threats of additional international terrorism are unlikely to decline any time soon. Citizens need to be accepting more responsibility for their personal safety, and many options are available. For those interested in learning more about a permit to carry a self-defense handgun, several certified instructors are active in the area.
(Lund is a Baxter resident and a member of the American Association of Certified Firearms Instructors.)
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