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Hot Dish Politics

Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

Suspicious package found at state Capitol, prompting evacuation

A construction worker found a suspicious package in the state Capitol Monday afternoon, prompting authorities to evacuate the building, currently closed because of renovations, a spokesman said. 

Adam Giorgi, deputy communications director for the state's Administration Department, said a construction worker found the package shortly after 2 p.m.

Giorgi said the package does not appear to be "anything explosive in nature." He added that emergency personnel are preparing decontamination equipment. 

4:51 p.m. update: A Department of Public Safety spokesman said the suspicious package turned out to be brick mortar and paper products. Officials are re-opening Cedar Street shortly, the spokesman said in an email.

GOP legislators want conceal-carry exemption for Minnesotans on active duty

A group of Republican state lawmakers said Monday that active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces and Minnesota National Guard shouldn't need to obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed firearm.

Citing numerous fatal shootings at domestic military sites in recent years, Sen. Paul Gazelka said military personnel should have more tools of self-protection. 

"Men and women in uniform simply being attacked because they represent America and stand for America, should have the right and the ability to defend themselves," said Gazelka, R-Nisswa, whose district includes the National Guard's Camp Ripley. 

Gazelka noted that shooters at several of the military sites had apparent ties to Islamic terror groups. 

Under the state's current conceal-carry law, only licensed peace officers are exempt from obtaining the state permit required to carry a privately owned firearm. Expanding it to both active duty military and National Guard members would likely make thousands more Minnesotans exempt from the requirement. 

"It's an effort to roll back safeguards we have now with conceal-carry," said Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, a gun control group. "You have to have some kind of screening to make sure that the person getting the permit to carry is not subject to a domestic violence restraining order or disqualified from owning a gun because of mental illness or other criminal history."

Martens said she doesn't think military personnel merit an exemption from such background checks. 

The Republican lawmakers said they'd also like to see Gov. Mark Dayton issue an executive order to arm Minnesota National Guard soldiers when they're on-base. Dayton said last week he is likely to defer to the U.S. Department of Defense, which has opposed arming all personnel at military camps, posts and stations. 

Despite the federal opposition, several Republican governors including Wisconsin's Scott Walker have recently issued orders allowing National Guard members in their states to carry weapons while on duty. 

Gazelka said the GOP lawmakers did not intend to pursue any changes unless they are backed by Minnesota National Guard leadership. 

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