Gov. Mark Dayton said while he worries about someone bringing a weapon to the Capitol with malicious intent, he is not worried about those with legal permits to carry and believes weapons-screening would be costly and could have a "chilling effect" on public participation.
Dayton was asked his views as an advisory panel on Capitol Security, chaired by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, began discussing the current policy of allowing those with permits to carry to bring their weapons into the state Capitol. The
"What I would worry about are not the people who have permits," Dayton said, noting they have submitted to background checks and training and have been carrying at the Capitol for years without an incident. "It's the people who would come in without a permit, with guns, with some intent (of) wrongdoing, that would concern me," Dayton said.
He said the only solution would be to install metal detectors and guards, such as at the U.S.. Capitol, where Dayton was a U.S.. Senator from 2001-2007.
"It would be very expensive," he said, considering the number of locations that need to be secured around the clock. "At this point, is the threat greater than the financial or other burden? At this point, I would say not. Obviously any one incident would tip the scales enormously."
Dayton said he would wait for recommendations from Prettner Solon's panel, the Advisory Committee on Capitol Security, which is taking a wide-ranging look at making the Capitol complex more secure. The group discussed the current weapons policy on Wednesday, and was told that people with permits to carry must only notify state officials -- not seek permission -- in order to legally carry in the state Capitol.
They need to do so once and their ability to carry in the Capitol continues indefinitely, the committee was told. Capitol Security does not always check to see if the people in fact have valid permits, a state police official said.
A total of 832 people have sent in such notification, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, argued before the committee that gun-carrying intimidates staff, legislators and others who want to attend meetings. He says 12-13 states allow gun-carrying in the Capitol, and he personally opposes Minnesota's policy.
Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, said gun-carrying may reduce the possibility of violence. "There's a good argument it decreases the possibility of bad things happening," he said.
Prettner Solon said the committee will hear additional public testimony on the issue at a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday. She said the committee is in the early stages of discussing the issue and is not ready to recommend a change in the policy.