“Shoot First” bill drastically changes gun laws, puts public safety at risk
State Sens. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, joined local law enforcement officials and county attorneys today in opposition to “Shoot First” legislation that would drastically change Minnesota’s laws relating to firearms. Voicing the concerns of Minnesota police officers and prosecutors were Minneapolis Police Chief Timothy Dolan, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith, Champlin Police Chief Dave Kolb, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, and Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.
The bill is opposed by the Minnesota County Attorneys, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police, the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association who say the legislation does nothing to contribute positively to the public safety of our state.
“The bill would ultimately create unwanted loop holes, lower permit requirements, and endanger Minnesota citizens as well as law enforcement officers,” said Sen. Harrington. “Though I believe the intentions of this bill may have been to provide a sense of security to some, I am afraid it falls far short of creating any real public safety value and in turn will hinder law enforcement’s ability to effectively keep the peace.”
The bill would expand what is known as the “Castle Doctrine” and allow residents to use deadly force to defend themselves in more than just their homes, including, among other sites, a garage, motor vehicle, tent or boat. The state already provides the right for an individual to protect themselves with deadly force in public or in their home if they are facing imminent unlawful death or serious bodily harm, and there have been no cases of a person being charged when they were defending themselves under current law in Minnesota.
Additionally, the legislation reverses the common law “rule of retreat” that sets the standard that killing another person should be done only as a last resort. The bill allows shooting whenever there is a perceived threat, even if the shooter could safely walk away.
“Minnesota law already provides the right for an individual to protect themselves with deadly force in public or in their home – adequately protecting law-abiding citizens,” said Sen. Latz. “Deadly force and the use of firearms should be a last resort. This legislation would allow deadly force to be someone’s first option, allowing them to shoot whenever there is a perceived threat, even if the shooter could safely walk away.”
“Lowering the standards for the use of deadly force poses serious and unnecessary dangers to citizens and law enforcement,” said Sen. Harrington. “The right to use deadly force in the bill applies equally to dangerous criminals – giving them viable self-defense claims for killing someone because they claim they were responding to a threat of serious harm.”
The legislation also creates an unwanted loophole by allowing every firearm permit issued in the country to be valid in the state of Minnesota. Minnesota currently has higher requirements than many other states, and we require more extensive background checks and firearms training. When the original permitting bill was signed into law, it gained support because people knew that permit holders would have to take a training course that included material on Minnesota laws and cases. This bill would not require that a visitor to our state have any knowledge or understanding of our laws.
The bill was approved by the House last session. The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate Finance Committee last week and awaits a floor debate.