The first is “permitless carry,” granting anyone in Minnesota the right to carry a gun wherever they go. The gun lobby prefers to call it “constitutional carry,” and it would invalidate all state laws on carrying or possession of weapons in public.
The second is “stand your ground,” which has two prongs. In your own home, you can shoot to kill in order to prevent a felony -- such the stealing of a TV or the writing of a bad check. Anywhere else, you can shoot to kill if you feel like you’re being personally threatened. You don’t have to try to run away first. And you won’t have to prove that you had a solid reason to be afraid in the first place.
These gun bills (HF188 and HF238) were both introduced in the Minnesota House on Thursday, signed by a litany of Republican authors. They do not yet have Senate versions, but the Senate too is controlled by Republicans this year so it’s may be a matter of time.
So here’s how it currently works in Minnesota.
In order to carry a gun, you have to get a permit from your county. They’ll check if you can legally have a gun -- that you haven’t gotten that right revoked because you were convicted of a felony or because you beat up your spouse. Then you have to take a class and pass a range test. After that, you can walk around with that gun on your hip.
Minnesota also allows you to kill in self-defense. Obviously, if someone’s threatening your life, you aren’t expected to just lay down. But you do have to prove that you at least tried to get away, that killing was your last resort, and that any reasonable person in your position would have done the same thing.
“This is huge,” says The Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, executive director of gun control organization Protect Minnesota. “Yes, it’s bad that now you could shoot someone if you think they’re going to steal your TV in your house. That’s terrible. But the part we have to really pay attention to is this completely changes our understanding of how we prove self-defense in this state and what self-defense means.”
Nord Bence, who was holding a press conference at the Capital on the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting at the time the bills were introduced, says they could add a layer of paranoia to everyday interactions.
“Look at the fear of immigrants we have in this state,” Nord Bence says. “You have been told that we have to worry about these Somali immigrants because they’re terrorists, and now you see a guy who looks like a terrorist, and you have no duty to retreat before using deadly force, and the presumption of innocence is with the shooter. … It’s going to lead to a wholesale arming of communities that feel threatened by this because if you were, say, a Somali immigrant in St. Cloud right now with all of the racial tension that’s going on, this bill is reason for you to be afraid.”
The most famous stand your ground case in recent memory is that of George Zimmerman’s killing of hoodie-wearing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. At the time, Florida’s stand your ground law ensured that Zimmerman could shoot if he had a fear of Martin, even if he wasn’t afraid enough to run away. Zimmerman’s acquittal was the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gov. Mark Dayton will most likely veto both bills. But they'll nonetheless test how the state begins to deal with the new power of extremists in the legislature.