Minnesota's law enforcement establishment ramped up its opposition Thursday to a bill moving through the Legislature that would dramatically expand Minnesotans' ability to use deadly force in self-defense without facing prosecution.
Flanked by police chiefs, prosecutors and DFL legislators, Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, said the bill "will increase danger to the public and increase danger to the police."
Harrington, formerly St. Paul's police chief, also called the bill "a broadly misguided piece of legislation that should be pulled."
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the measure is "chasing a problem that doesn't exist" and that Minnesota's existing laws governing self-defense adequately protect the state's law-abiding citizens.
The opponents repeated their contention that the bill will put police officers at an increased risk of being shot by gun owners who believe their safety is threatened.
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, noting that he has been shot at during his career, said officers on the street already work in "a very dangerous place ... This is just going to make it even more dangerous."
The bill, already approved by committees in the House and Senate, would allow gun owners to shoot intruders who broke into their home, campsite or wherever they happen to be residing at the moment.
Supporters, led by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, call it the "Stand Your Ground" law, while opponents refer to it as a "Shoot First" law.
Andrew Rothman of the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance called the opponents' label "ridiculous hyperbole" and said they are engaging in "hysteria and fear-mongering."
Although the bill appears likely to be approved by the Legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton has said he opposes it, though he has stopped short of threatening a veto. He has said he shares the concerns of law enforcement organizations.
"The governor will have to decide if he's on the side of criminals or of law-abiding citizens," Rothman said.