GOP state lawmaker Tony Cornish criticized law enforcement officials Tuesday for helping defeat a bill that would have expanded the rights of gun owners to use deadly force in self defense.
Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill Monday. The legislation would have expanded the allowable use of deadly force if people believe they are in imminent danger in a home, hotel room, car, boat or tent. It also would have required Minnesota to accept gun permits from every state, including those that have less restrictive gun laws.
Cornish, who sponsored the bill in the House, said Dayton sent him a cordial email explaining his decision. "It basically said we're still good friends and he appreciates my efforts but he had to veto it," Cornish, of Good Thunder, said Tuesday.
"I don't blame the governor," he said on The Daily Circuit. "I blame the law enforcement talking heads that brought this argument to him."
The bill was opposed by the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. The groups argued the legislation could put officers' lives at risk and could make it easier for people who kill officers to defend themselves in court.
Cornish, a long-time law enforcement officer who recently retired as police chief in Lake Crystal, said the groups' concerns were misplaced and that the bill does not apply to the shooting of police officers.
"We went overboard to solve the police's problem (with the bill), but it's in their genes to oppose gun bills I guess," Cornish said.
Dayton's veto letter cites opposition from law enforcement officials. "When they strongly oppose a measure, because they believe it will increase the dangers to them in the performance of their duties, I cannot support it," the letter said.
Cornish said he worries that law enforcement leaders are moving toward opposing citizens' rights to bear arms. He called Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan a "gun grabber" for his opposition to the deadly force bill and previous gun bills.
"Attitudes like that among our police are basically scary. I worry about that," Cornish said.
Dolan said police officers in urban areas face more dangers than those from small town departments, like the one Cornish led. He said Minneapolis officers often have to run through someone's yard or show up unannounced at a front door. Dolan said under certain conditions a startled gun owner could mistake the officer for an intruder and fire through a door.
"I've been shot at the doorway," said Dolan. "I've shot at people through the doorway. That doorway, we call it — tactically — is the funnel of death."
Dolan said he supports gun registration and opposed the permit to carry law. But he rejects the notion that he and other big city police chiefs who have similar views are anti-gun.
"We do respect the 2nd Amendment. We do believe that responsible gun ownership is just fine," said Dolan. "But we are trying to deal with issues and problems with gunfire and homicides in our cities that people don't seem to have much respect for unless they're in that mix."
Cornish said plans to introduce the bill again in future legislative sessions and hopes to convince law enforcement officials to back the legislation.
"I imagine this is going to be an uphill battle, but we'll win it eventually," he said.
(MPR reporter Brandt Williams contributed to this report from Minneapolis.)