GUNS AT CAPITOL: Highlights of 2nd public hearing - New York News

GUNS AT CAPITOL: Highlights of 2nd public hearing

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The second public hearing drew more heated debate over whether or not guns should be allowed inside the State Capitol building, with advocates on both sides testifying in front of lawmakers.

Current Minnesota law allows permitted gun owners to enter the State Capitol with their firearm if they first contact Department of Public Safety officials to announce their intentions.

As of Aug. 14, 832 people had been granted permission to carry.

Gun supporters argue that those who follow the rules shouldn't be punished, but critics maintain that the simple presence of a holstered firearm inside a legislative chamber or meeting room is intimidating and stifles the democratic process.

An advisory committee, chaired by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, is taking a close look at all areas of Capitol security. Tuesday, the committee heard public testimony from both sides of the issue.

NOTABLE TESTIMONY

"Allowing people with loaded guns into the Capitol doesn't advance the democratic process, it shuts it down." - Ann Mongoven

"There is an irrational fear driving a few to feel intimidated and potentially threatened by citizens who legally own firearms." – Kevin Vick

"To me, the Capitol is a place for free flowing exchange of ideas and opinions. Not bullets." - Sami Rahamim, son of Accent Signage shooting victim

NOT SO FAST

Although some have openly called for a ban on guns inside the Capitol, Gov. Mark Dayton said recently he's not too sure that an outright ban is needed and there is no legislation that would establish one.

Even so, the idea has some support among big names in Minnesota politics. When asked whether she would support banning guns at the Capitol, Prettner Solon admitted that would be her "knee-jerk reaction."

"I try to have an open mind about things. That would be my knee-jerk reaction," she said. "I don't feel the need to have guns around me. I like that we have troopers here with guns to protect us."

At the first hearing, Prettner Solon said it was not her intention to do "anything on a knee-jerk reaction" and that the committee would consider all testimony as well as compare security policies at other Capitol buildings.

"Right now, we're just holding a discussion because the subject tends to be so heated, so emotional" Prettner Solon said. "We're trying to have a conversation where we diffuse the emotion and talk about the reality."

The advisory committee will continue meeting as it searches for recommendations to improve overall safety at the Capitol.

BACKGROUND

Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul) suggested a review take place following this year's legislative session and bitterly contested gun debate. Paymar said his research showed about a dozen other states allow firearms at their state Capitol buildings, meaning Minnesota is in the minority.

Paymar admitted to FOX 9 News that he felt intimidated by the presence of firearms, but he said his biggest priority is making sure everyone feels safe to come engage in the political process.

"I'm more concerned about the staff, about the citizens that come in to testify on volatile issues that concern them," he explained. "If they feel intimidated, I feel it's problematic."

According to Capt. Shelly Schtrofer, the new Minnesota Capitol Security Chief, a current $1.25 million budget will allow her to hire six new troopers to bolster security at the Capitol.

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