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Last reviewed June 2009

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Firearm Carry Laws

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This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to Minnesota legislators. It is designed to provide an introduction to the topic, directing the user to a variety of sources, and is not intended to be exhaustive.

Since 1987, starting with Florida, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of states changing over to a "shall issue" permit system. Over 30 states now have "shall issue" firearm carry laws. In addition, Vermont allows the carrying of a concealed weapon without a permit.

In Minnesota, a person may not carry a pistol in a public place unless they are in possession of a "permit to carry". Exceptions to the permit requirement include law enforcement officers and other defined instances (Minnesota Statutes, section 624.714). In 2003, the movement to change the permit application process from "may issue" (discretionary) to "shall issue" succeeded with the passage of Laws of Minnesota 2003, Chapter 28, Article 2. The "shall issue" application process limits the local law enforcement discretion provision and requires the granting of permits to all applicants who meet minimum requirements.

Efforts to change Minnesota from a "may issue" to a "shall issue" state took place over several years.

During the 2001 Minnesota Legislative Session, Minnesota came close to becoming a "shall issue" state. House File 1360, a "shall issue" bill, passed in the House of Representatives on April 9th, 2001. Governor Ventura indicated his support for the House language (Star Tribune, April 10, 2001). A companion bill in the Senate (Senate File 1395) failed in several committees but the issue was resurrected as a floor amendment to Senate File 1481. However, in the Senate floor debate, the "shall issue" amendment was changed to "discretionary issue" through further amendment. This action caused the "shall issue" sponsor to withdraw the original amendment, ending further action on the issue for the 2001 Session. See the Journal of the Senate for May 15, 2001, beginning on page 3604, for further 2001 Session information regarding Senate File 1481. On February 11, 2002, a motion to take Senate File 1481 from the table, which would revive the bill, failed with a 33 to 33 vote.

During the 2003 Session, there were several firearm carry bills introduced. See the House of Representative's and Senate's Legislation and Bill Status webpages for further information on these bills. In April of 2003, the House of Representatives amended the Department of Natural Resources technical bill, Senate File 842, Article 2, with the "shall issue" language from House File 261. The Senate subsequently passed Senate File 842 as amended and the governor signed the bill into law (Laws of Minnesota 2003, Chapter 28) on April 29, 2003.

On July 13, 2004, Ramsey County District judge, John Finley, ruled that the 2003 changes to the firearm carry law were unconstitutional. Minnesota's Constitution requires that bills deal with a single subject and the judge ruled that by amending the firearm carry language to a Department of Natural Resources bill, the law violated that requirement. Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch stated that he would appeal Finley's decision. See Ramsey County court decision, Unity v. State of Minnesota.

On January 13, 2005, the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard arguments on the Ramsey County court decision. On April 12, 2005, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision, thereby striking down the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003. See Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, Unity Church of St. Paul, et al., Respondents; Adath Jeshurun Congregation, et al., Respondents; City of Minneapolis, Respondent; People Serving People, Inc., et al., Respondents, vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant. (A04-1302)(4/12/2005).

During the 2005 Session, several firearm carry bills were introduced to address the court decisions regarding the 2003 Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003. In May of 2005, Senate File 2259 was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Governor Pawlenty signed Senate File 2259 into law (Laws of Minnesota 2005, Chapter 83) on May 24, 2005. This act makes no distinction between "open carry" versus "concealed carry" and persons with a valid permit are allowed to carry using either method.

On September 9, 2005, Hennepin County District Court Judge, LaJune Thomas Lange, issued a temporary injunction that allowed churches to post signs of their own wording and to completely ban firearms from all church property, including parking lots. This temporary injunction was the initial result of a lawsuit filed by two churches who argued that the firearm carry law interferes with their religious practices. On November 14, 2006, Hennepin County District Court Judge William Howard extended this temporary injunction by making it permanent. On February 5, 2008, the Minnesota State Court of Appeals ruled that churches have the right to ban guns from their property and can decide how to notify people of weapons prohibitions. See: Edina Community Lutheran Church, Respondent, Unity Church of St. Paul, Respondent, vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant. (A07-131)(2/5/2008).

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has posted permit to carry information on their website.

Legislative History:

The Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2001, House File 1360/Senate File 1395, was an attempt to extend permissive firearm carry legislation to Minnesota. The issue was also discussed in the Senate on May 15, 2001 during debate on Senate File 1481.

Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act of 2003 Senate File 842 was signed by the governor on April 28, 2003.

Several new bills called Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act were introduced in April 2005. In May of 2005, Senate File 2259 was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Governor Pawlenty signed Senate File 2259 into law (2005 Session Laws, Chapter 83) on May 24, 2005.

Legislative history materials are available at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

Significant Books and Reports:

Cleary, Jim. The Effects of "Shall-Issue" Concealed-Carry Licensing Laws: A Literature Review. St. Paul, MN: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 1999. (KF3941 .C34 1999)

Cleary, Jim. Firearms in Minnesota: Prohibited Locations. St. Paul, MN: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2011. (KF3941 .C34 1999)

Cleary, Jim. Firearms Laws in Minnesota: An Overview for Legislators. St. Paul, MN: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2012. (KFM5779 .C55 2012)

Cox, Joe. Pistol Posting: Posting at Private Establishments. St. Paul, MN: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2003. (HN79 .M6 S56 2003)

Conceal & Carry. Saint Paul, MN : Minnesota State Bar Association, 2003. (KFM5779 .C66 2003)

Duggan, Mark. More Guns, More Crime. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2000. (HV7436.D84 2000)

Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide 2005. Washington, DC: Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 2005. (Reference KF3941.A29 F43)

Firearms State Laws and Published Ordinances. Washington, DC: Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 2010/2011. (Reference KF3941 .F57)

Hemenway, David. Private Guns, Public Health. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004. (RD96.3 .H45 2004)

Kappas, J. Scott. Traveler's Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States. Covington, KY: Traveler's Guide, 2008. (Reference KF3941 .Z95 K37 2008)

Kleck, Gary. Armed: New Perspectives On Gun Control. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2001. (HV7436 .K538 2001)

Kopel, David B., Stephen P. Halbrook, Alan Korwin. Supreme Court Gun Cases : Two Centuries of Gun Rights Revealed. Phoenix, AZ: Bloomfield Press, c2004. (KF3941.A7 K67 2004)

Lott, John R. The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control is Wrong. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Pub. ; Lanham, MD: Distributed to the trade by National Book Network, 2003. (HV7436 .L68 2003)

Lott, John R. and David B. Mustard. Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns. Chicago, IL: Law School, University of Chicago, 1996. (HV7436 .L68 1996)

Lott, John R. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. (KF3941 .L68 1998)

Ludwig, Jens, Philip J. Cook, editors. Evaluating Gun Policy: Effects on Crime and Violence. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2003. (HV7436 .E9 2003)

Nieto, Marcus. Concealed Handgun Laws and Public Safety. Sacramento, CA: California Research Bureau, California State Library, 1997. (KF3941 .N54 1997)

Right-To-Carry 2012. Fairfax, VA: National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, 2012.

Rosenberg, Joel. Everything You Need to Know About (Legally) Carrying a Handgun in Minnesota. St. Paul, MN : American Association of Certified Firearms Instructors, 2003. (HV7436 .R67 2003)

Sugarman, Josh. Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns. New York, 2001. (HV7436 .S835 2001)

Summary Data on Permits to Carry Concealed Weapon. St. Paul, MN: Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Department of Public Safety, 2003. (HV 8059 .S86 2003) (Mandated by Laws of Minnesota 2001, 1st Special Session, Chap. 8, Art. 5, Sec. 20).

Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales. Washington D.C.: United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005. (HV 7436 .S87 2005)

Permit to Carry Report. St. Paul, MN: State of Minnesota, Dept. of Public Safety, 2008. (HV8059 .P47)

Unintended Consequences: Pro-Handgun Experts Prove That Handguns Are a Dangerous Choice For Self-Defense. Washington D.C.: Violence Policy Center, 2001. (HV7436 .U55 2001)

Webster, Daniel W. The Claims that Right-to-Carry Laws Reduce Violent Crime are Unsubstantiated. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, 1997. (HV7436 .W43 1997) Critique of study by John Lott and David Mustard on concealed guns.

Significant Articles:

Atres, Ian and John J. Donohue III. "The Latest Misfires in Support of the "More Guns, Less Crime" Hypothesis." Stanford Law Review, vol. 55, issue 4, p. 1371+. (Vertical File G50.5)

Atres, Ian and John J. Donohue III. "Shooting Down the "More Guns, Less Crime" Hypothesis." Stanford Law Review, vol. 55, issue 4, p. 1193+. (Vertical File G50.5)

"Gun Rights Debates". CQ Researcher, October 31, 2008.

Kranz, Steven W. "A Survey of State Conceal and Carry Statutes: Can Small Changes Help Reduce the Controversy?" Hamline Law Review, vol. 29, no. 3, Summer 2006, p. 637+

Nelson, Tim. "Gun Law's Author Hit Right On Target." Pioneer Press, July 6, 2003.

Martin, Jr. Robert A. and Richard L. Legault. "Systematic Measurement Error With State-Level Crime Data: Evidence from the 'More Guns, Less Crime' Debate." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, May 2005. p. 187-210.

Milbert, Melissa M. "Note: The Legislature Should Clean Up Its Act:The Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act, a DNR Technical Bill, and the Single-Subject and Title Clause of the Minnesota Constitution" William Mitchell Law Review, 2005, vol. 31, no. 4, p. 1545-1600.

"On to the Senate: Plan to Change Concealed Weapons Permit Policy Pits Personal Protection Against Perceived Safety Risks." Session Weekly, April 25, 2003, vol. 20, no. 16, p. 15.

Plassmann, Florenz and John Whitley. "Confirming "More Guns, Less Crime"." Stanford Law Review, vol. 55, issue 4, p. 1313+. (Vertical File G50.5)

Schmiesing, Elizabeth H. "The Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act: Reform or Advocacy?" William Mitchell Law Review, vol. 33, no. 1, 2006, p 415+.

Additional Library Resources:

For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
G50 (Guns & Gun Control), G50.5 (Guns & Gun Control-Laws, Legislation, Constitutionality)

For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Firearm Laws; Firearm Laws (Minnesota).

Groups Involved with this Issue:

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, 645 State Office Building, Saint Paul, MN  55155