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Proposed recommendation to ban guns at Capitol fails with tie vote

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota legislature Updated: November 26, 2013 - 2:12 PM

A proposal to extend a gun ban at the State Capitol to permit holders failed on a tied vote Tuesday, after a vigorous debate on public safety versus the freedom to carry weapons.

The proposed amendment by Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, failed with a 2-2 tie in the Advisory Committee on Capitol Security, which provides recommendations to the legislature. A similar recommendation by its chair, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, to limit the carrying of pistols within House and Senate chambers along with committee hearings, also failed.

With another hearing set for January before the 2014 legislative session begins, the vote doesn’t mean the recommendation against a gun ban is final, but “it’s a sense of where the committee is going.” Prettner Solon said.

Minnesota law currently bans dangerous weapons including firearms from the Capitol area, with exceptions for permit-holders who provide advance notice to the Commissioner of Public Safety. Paymar’s recommendation extended the ban to permit-holders from carrying in the Capitol, State Office Building and Judicial Center, with measures including metal detectors at each door. Permit holders would still be allowed to carry in the complex’s other 14 buildings.

Paymar said Minnesota remains an outlier compared to other states for continuing to allows firearms in the Capitol.

“This committee has said we want to keep the Capitol complex open and accessible and hope nothing happens, but to me hope is not a very good basis to build public safety,” Paymar said. “I’ve heard members of this committee say we haven’t had an incident yet and I would add that ‘yet’ is not a very good safety response.”

Five screening checkpoints would cost an estimated $300,000, with an annual staffing cost of $240,000 per entrance.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, argued against the proposal, calling it “fixing something that isn’t broken.”

“I don’t think this is a Republican versus Democrat issue, but it’s definitely a Second Amendment issue, and a very strong emotional issue especially in the district that I come from,” he said. “I certainly understand the thought process of Senators and Representatives in the metro area because when guns get brought up in a lot of cases it’s gangs and shootings…but to hinder the folks that are doing what’s right to get the permit allowing them protection wherever they go in the state of Minnesota is not the right way to go.”

Ingebrigtsen added that he agrees with Gov. Mark Dayton, who said in August that metal detectors could create a chilling effect on public participation. Recomendations that “push or surpass the protections found in the 2nd Amendment will not address the underlying issues regarding the safety in the Capitol Complex,” he said afterward.

Without a majority, the recommendation failed to pass. Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea chose not to vote in case the issue is argued before her, while Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, was absent and out of the state, a staffer said.

Prettner Solon, who has supported strengthening the gun ban, said afterward that it’s important the conversation continues, and that it’s about public safety as much as constitutional freedoms.

In January, a formal recommendation will be drafted, influenced by Tuesday’s vote, but Prettner Solon acknowledged another vote could take place at that time.

“It’s always up for further consideration.” she said.

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