The latest attempt to turn Minnesotans against one another and further undermine trust in government is underway among some of the Legislature’s leading Republicans, who are seeking to have Sherburne County become a “gun sanctuary” that would essentially exempt it from recognizing certain state gun laws.
Somehow, this absurd and dangerous notion has taken hold in 400 counties scattered across half the states in the country. To be sure, not all Republicans have signed on, but House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt is among those who support it, along with Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, who leads the powerful State Government Finance and Policy and Elections committee.
The “Second Amendment sanctuary movement,” for the uninitiated, has been spreading rapidly in parts of the country as a backlash to the growing public support for common-sense gun laws. The common tactic — most recently seen at an armed protest in Virginia — has been to label as “extremist” proposals that have broad public support.
Those proposals include expanded background checks and “red flag” laws, which allow law enforcement and judges to determine whether an individual poses a danger to himself or others and, if so, to temporarily remove that person’s access to weapons. It is a basic tool that law enforcement agencies, domestic violence survivors and others have been seeking.
At a Senate information hearing on gun proposals for the upcoming session held earlier this week in Hibbing, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin, representing the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, said he has become “so tired” in his more than 40 years as an attorney of showing up at homicide scenes in Duluth and across the Iron Range where, he said, shooters should not have had access to firearms due to criminal or mental health reasons. Red-flag laws, he said, would be a “noninvasive way to find out ahead of time,” noting that “this does nothing to compromise the rights of those of us that lawfully possess firearms.”
Gun violence and how to curb it is a polarizing, inflammatory issue, and as we head toward a high-stakes election everyone seems determined to pull out all the stops. But promoting the notion that a county can simply chose to ignore state laws and create its own standard for what it believes meets constitutional muster is something that Minnesotans should reject.
It’s likely that a divided Legislature will continue to be divided over how best to curb gun violence. The Star Tribune Editorial Board has made clear that it supports expanded background checks, red-flag laws and other measures that have been employed in other states and have been shown to make a difference.
We do not support the proposals endorsed by Senate Republicans for either expanded so-called stand-your-ground laws or permitless carry. Both are persistent goals of the gun lobby, but not the broad majority of Minnesotans. Nevertheless, the legislative process is designed to sort out conflicting proposals. It would be wise to abide by that process and not attempt to weaken the institutions that bind us together by turning counties against state government.