Feb 20, 2023 | By: Hanky Hazelton

Area Legislators, Sheriffs Opposed to Proposed Gun Storage Bill in MN House

A bill that would enact stricter restrictions on storing guns in Minnesota is getting a lot of attention at the state Capitol, and several county sheriffs and legislators from the Lakeland viewing area are speaking out against the proposal.

The bill, House File 396, is authored by DFL Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn. The bill would amend state statute 624.713, which defines who is ineligible to possess a firearm or ammunition in Minnesota, by adding language that says a gun owner “must take reasonable action to secure the firearm when it is not carried or under the control of the owner or an authorized user.” It would require a firearm to be stored unloaded with a locking device and separately from its ammunition.

“The goal here is to keep more people safe from what we now contemplate as accidents,” says Rep. Becker-Finn.

But some county sheriffs have already stated their disapproval of the legislation. Clearwater County Sheriff Darin Halverson said he questioned how the storage requirements would be enforced.

“It concerned me about the government basically intruding into people’s private residences, and that’s the only way – there’s no other way to enforce the law, than to be going into people’s houses and verifying if their weapons are all locked up,” said Halverson.

Penalties listed in the bill include felonies for a gun’s owner if a child or someone prohibited from possessing guns accesses a loaded, unsecured firearm, or if that firearm causes severe injury or death to someone owner than its owner.

Some Republican legislators, including Sen. Steve Green, Rep. Matt Bliss, and Rep. Matt Grossell, held a town hall meeting at the Bemidji Eagles Club on Feb. 11 to hear from local residents. They claim the bill could have the government take guns away from their owners.

“What this does, it takes away the gun owner’s right to know is that there’s even a process going on until they knock on his door and take the guns,” said Sen. Green. “And then he has to prove his innocence to be able to get his gun back, and it’s backwards from what our laws and our Constitution says.”

“It’s overreach by the state government,” said Rep. Bliss. “People want to feel safe and secure in their own homes, and this is just stepping over the bounds and our local folks, you could tell today, the passion was there and they are not happy with this.”

The legislators at the meeting also urged their constituents to oppose HF 396 by contacting the Governor’s and Attorney General’s offices.

One claim from Sheriff Halverson was that HF 396 would not be effective because criminals don’t follow the law.

“They’re not going to make sure their weapons are all locked up and secured, but if one of them broke into your house and you had to have your weapons secured in a safe, there’s not the time to call a timeout and go to your safe and open it up and get your gun out,” said Halverson.

Rep. Becker-Finn says her bill doesn’t apply to anyone in their homes and with their gun under their control. “This is contemplating primarily when you aren’t home or when you aren’t in the same room, [these are] ways to make sure that weapon isn’t accessible and unsafe.”

Another area sheriff, Crow Wing County Sheriff Eric Klang, says there are already existing laws that could already be used to address the issue of safe gun storage.

“[Statute] 609.666 is [negligent] storage of a firearm that they could revert back to. So we don’t need new laws, we can use the ones that we have existing, and that’s one of them that we could use,” said Klang.

But Rep. Becker-Finn says that criminal statues are a way of communicating to the public on what kind of behavior is acceptable if we want to have a safer society. She said that having the public discuss a bill of this nature can help inform them on ways to stay safe.

“By lifting this up, by having it on the news, by talking about this legislation, that folks will be more aware of what appropriate way of storing your guns is, so that we don’t run into a situation where [there are] accidents, but they’re completely preventable and it’s due to the behavior of adults who aren’t being careful,” said Rep. Becker-Finn.

Rep. Becker-Finn also says she is open to any feedback on the proposal, and that her focus is to work on an amendment that makes this bill better and safer for all Minnesotans.

Lakeland News is member supported content, please consider supporting Lakeland PBS today.

Support the Businesses That Support Lakeland PBS

Related News