By Maureen McMullen, Forum News Service
Opponents of a proposal to allow carrying handguns for life say the legislation would allow people to carry guns after it is safe.
Under Minnesota law, permits expire every five years, at which point applicants must undergo training and pay a fee to renew their permit.
The new bill, introduced by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, would establish a one-time permitting system by eliminating expiration dates from carrying permits issued after Aug. 1.
“It’s similar to our firearm safety certificate,” Cornish said. “You’re given that when you’re 11 years old, and you can handle a firearm for the rest of your life and you never have to take another class. Why do we require (renewal) for handguns?”
The bill is among gun-related legislation to garner opposition this year from anti-gun violence group Protect Minnesota.
The group took to the State Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 14 for its Broken Hearts Day event to urge lawmakers to reject bills like lifetime permits, which members called “extreme.” The group distributed 1,500 handmade cards to lawmakers, each one representing an incident of gun violence in the last year.
The Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, Protect Minnesota executive director, said the Cornish bill would hinder law enforcement’s ability to remove licenses from people who can no longer safely carry a gun.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported cancelling, revoking or suspending permits from nearly 400 Minnesotans who had previously been approved to carry firearms.
The bill, she said, also raises concern over Minnesota’s aging population, who will become increasingly susceptible to dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates more than 90,000 Minnesotans over the age of 65 live with Alzheimer’s, and the number is expected to grow to 120,000 by 2020.
“Do we really believe that that person who was safe to carry a gun when they were 21, or 31 or 41 still be totally completely together when they’re 91?” she asked. “We have a serious issue with our aging population that is well-armed.”
Cornish dismissed concerns from Protect Minnesota, whom he called “gun-haters.”
A former police officer who chairs the House Public Safety and Security Committee, Cornish said the initial training and background check would sufficiently vet applicants the first time.
The lifetime permits holders, he said, could lose their permit if convicted of crimes that would bar them from carrying a handgun.
Cornish’s bill also aims to lower the cost of legally carrying a firearm by reducing the maximum permit fee counties can charge from $100 to $50.
Applicants currently pay permit fees to counties in addition to the cost for permit to carry classes, which range from about $90 to $150.
Although Protect Minnesota estimates the permit fees generate nearly $1 million for the state, Cornish said the process has become unduly expensive for applicants.
“There’s a number of counties who’ve gotten more money in their pocket from that than they need,” he said. “It’s not that expensive to do background checks and issue these cards any more.”
From the other side of the aisle, two bills to be reintroduced by Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, and Rep. Dave Pinto, D-St. Paul, next week have gained support from Protect Minnesota.
One bill would require background checks for any gun purchases made by private sellers in Minnesota. Only licensed retailers now are required to conduct background checks.
The second Latz-Pinto bill would establish “red flag laws” allowing families and law enforcement officers to petition courts to have guns temporarily confiscated from people at risk of hurting themselves or other people.
The third bill to receive support from Protect Minnesota would allocate state funding into gun violence prevention programs. Sen. Jeff Hayden, D-Minneapolis, will introduce the bill in memory of his sister, who was killed in the crossfire of an Atlanta shooting last summer.