In Minnesota's Dakota County and elsewhere, library gun policy may be a surprise

  • Updated: March 4, 2013 - 10:04 AM

DAKOTA COUNTY

LAURIE BLAKE

Guns have not been a problem for metro libraries. As Anoka County Library Director Marlene Moulton Janssen says: “It’s a nonissue.”

As it happens, the state of Minnesota allows people who are properly licensed to carry a gun to bring it into a library.

But recent gun-related violence and political discussions about the issue prompted the Dakota County library system to revise its firearms policy last month.

Library Director Ken Behringer said the revised policy “attempts to balance the right of a person to be safe in our library buildings and adjacent property with the right of a person who has a permit to carry a pistol or long gun.”

Long gun?

Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom said it’s little known, and certainly took him by surprise, that the state permit-to-carry law allows a person with a pistol permit to carry BB guns, shotguns and rifles in the same places the pistol can be carried.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Backstrom said. But it’s legal.

Even Hennepin County — which displays signs saying dangerous weapons are banned from library premises — has a footnote saying licensed owners of pistols are not subject to the ban.

Brandishing guns in the library is another matter. Pulling a gun or waving it around triggers a call to police. “It’s 911,” Ramsey County Library Director Susan Nemitz said. She can’t remember such an incident ever occurring.

But until and unless the law changes, Backstrom said, Dakota County’s new library policy says: “A person 21 years old or older with a permit to carry a pistol may have on their person a pistol, BB gun, rifle or shotgun, either concealed or unconcealed, in a Dakota County Library building.”

But if library staffers see a long gun, they are to report it to police immediately, as a precaution, because of the high firepower and increased visibility of such weapons.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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