Gun bill advances, opposed by Dayton

  • Article by: BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2011 - 9:53 PM

Measure would expand Minnesotans' right to use deadly force. Police officers say it creates "safety issue."

A firearms bill that would greatly expand Minnesotans' right to use deadly force without facing prosecution is advancing at the Capitol.

But it may not get past the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton, who said Wednesday he opposes it.

Earlier in the day, by a voice vote, members of the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill, the first showdown of the legislative session over gun rights. Having now passed two committees, the bill is on its way to the full House.

The committee hearing was a low-key rerun of a separate one held last week that was jammed with supporters of the bill, who call it the "Stand Your Ground" measure, and opponents, who call it the "Shoot First" bill.

Gun control advocates and organizations representing the state's police chiefs, sheriffs and officers reiterated their opposition to the bill, which, they say, could endanger their members. "To us, this is a huge officer safety issue," said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

Dayton, himself a gun owner, said he will "listen carefully to the concerns of the law enforcement community."

He added: "I understand and believe that somebody has a right, if somebody enters their home and is threatening their spouse or their children or themselves, to take preventive action, and I recognize the police are not going to always be able to be on the scene immediately. I'm sympathetic to those concerns, but this goes way beyond that."

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, the bill's sponsor, repeated his contention that "we like to call it the self-defense bill -- it attempts to give more latitude to the homeowner."

Brushing aside opponents' contention that the change in the law would lead to an increasing number of dead trespassers, Cornish said it "doesn't allow you to shoot someone toilet-papering your tree."

The bill would expand what is known as the Castle Doctrine and has long been close to the top of the wish list for gun rights supporters, who say they should have no obligation to flee an attacker.

It gives Minnesotans the right to defend themselves with deadly force in more than just their homes, including, among other things, a garage, motor vehicle, tent or boat.

Although DFL majorities have been able to block it in recent years, it's expected to face few obstacles in this session's Republican-dominated Legislature.

House Democrats had tried unsuccessfully Wednesday to derail the measure by sending it to another House committee.

Staff writer Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report. Bob von Sternberg • 651-222-0973

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