A state lawmaker introduced legislation Monday to bar most people from bringing guns to the State Capitol.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, comes on the heels of a report early this month that found potential threats lurking around the Capitol.
The proposal has a tough road ahead. A key committee chair -- and Capitol gun carrier -- dismissed the idea as "dead on arrival" on Monday.
Minnesota law allows people to carry guns in the State Capitol if they have the proper weapons permit and they inform the commissioner of Public Safety. A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, Doug Neville, said 418 people have notified the commissioner that they plan to bring weapons to the Capitol complex in the past six years. The names of those people are not public.
Minnesota officials and lawmakers took a renewed interest in Capitol safety after an attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., this January.
"Back when Tucson happened ... I just thought if we do nothing, I just think that's unconscionable," said Paymar.
A Capitol security report produced in the wake of the shooting did not recommend barring guns at the Capitol but did suggest additional gun safety training for permit holders.
Paymar, whose bill permits law enforcement and military personnel to carry guns in the Capitol complex, noted that some legislators come to work armed.
"I think that there are some very legitimate questions about whether legislators should carry firearms into the Senate and House chambers," Paymar said.
One of those lawmakers is Public Safety Committee Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, who called Paymar's bill a "terrible idea" on Monday.
"It's a longstanding practice to carry guns at the Capitol," said an armed Cornish, who is also a police chief. "And we've never had any problems with it."
Paymar's bill proposes borrowing $6 million for improvements to tunnels that connect Capitol area buildings and an unspecified amount for metal detectors. The security report, released earlier this month, said the state should consider metal detectors at the Capitol, but did not explicitly recommend them. It did recommend increased safety measures in the tunnels.
Paymar said he is unsure whether the Capitol needs metal detectors, but thinks it is something officials should discuss. Cornish said he opposes metal detectors.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said Paymar's proposal has a slim chance of becoming law.
"It'll be difficult enough to just implement the recommendations in the report," said Bakk, DFL-Cook.
A spokesman for Gov. Mark Dayton said the governor needs to look closer at the proposal before stating an opinion.
Eric Roper • 651-222-1210