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Area sheriffs oppose proposed gun storage law

By by A. R. V. van Rheenen,


The State Legislature is considering amendments to state statute regarding safe storage of firearms and ammunition. If the bill passes, an individual in violation of the safe storage statute would be ineligible to possess a firearm with other criminal penalties. Additionally, current state 609.666 would be repealed, which states a person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor for negligent storing of a firearm where a child is likely to gain access.

House File 396 adds language to a statute already in place. The statute, as it stands now, outlines those who are ineligible to possess a firearm, such as those who have been determined judicially as mentally ill, those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor violation of chapter 152, or someone who has been convicted of a violent crime. The language added outlines storage and transfer requirements of firearms, including requiring an appropriate locking device with a firearm transfer. Storage requirements include taking “reasonable action to secure the firearm” when it is not in use. Reasonable action is defined as requiring a firearm to “be stored unloaded with a locking device and separately from its ammunition.”

In a letter dated March 10, 14 sheriffs who represent District 2 of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association wrote a letter addressed to Reps. Kurt Daudt, Isaac Schultz and Ron Kresha, asking the representatives to oppose H.F. 396. Sheriff Kyle Burton of Mille Lacs County signed his name to the letter, along with neighbors Sheriffs Dan Guida of Aitkin County, Brian Smith of Kanabec, Shawn Larsen of Morrison and Eric Klang of Crow Wing.

The letter cites concerns with delayed response times of law enforcement in rural areas “due to the mere size of the geography of our counties.” They wrote the storage requirements could inhibit homeowners from being able to quickly protect themselves and their families. The letter also references statute 609.666 as a current law that addresses negligent storage of firearms.

In close, the letter brings attention to the “enormous increase” of mental health and illegal drug-related activity, which they want to see more resources targeted to these issues.

Burton posted the letter to Facebook. Within the comments, Burton said the current law in place is already a good law in regards to firearms storage – it’s just not enforced properly. In a phone conversation, Burton said the statute, 609.666, is enforced, “unfortunately, once a tragedy has happened.” He gave an example from his career of an incident in Princeton when two children played with a gun, and it resulted in a fatality. He added that there are “not a large number” of incidents of children who get ahold of loaded firearms, and most people with small children properly store their firearms. If the proposed legislation passes, Burton believes the language of the bill increases the difficulty of enforcement.

Burton shared he will be going down to the Capitol on Thursday with Sheriff Brian Smith of Kanabec County and Sheriff Wayne Seiberlich of Isanti County to have conversations with representatives of the area about this piece of legislation. Burton said he also plans to address H.F. 14 and 15, both bills addressing firearm possession and permitting.

The problem with proposed bills like this, Burton said, is the legislation “doesn’t do anything to address the 1-2% who cause problems,” in relation to firearm-involved crimes, but rather burdens law enforcement and families more. He added that, while bills like the ones proposed may aim to filter through those who have severe mental health issues, the “state of Minnesota doesn’t have the infrastructure to address mental health” in a meaningful way.

The bill has a companion Senate text, S.F. 916, which was referred to the Judiciary and Public Safety committee. In the House of Representatives, after it went through the Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, it was referred to Ways and Means. H.F. 396 was initially introduced Jan. 17.

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