Departing members pan Capitol security panel

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A departing state lawmaker who pushed for tougher security measures inside the state Capitol building, including tighter restrictions on guns, offered a harsh assessment today of the special committee designed to address those sensitive topics.

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, told his fellow members of the Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security that he believes it was “a failed mission.” He said the panel made no significant recommendations to the Legislature about limiting firearms or installing metal detectors.

Paymar, who did not seek re-election this year, attended his last meeting of the committee today. His parting comments raised concerns about the vulnerability of the Capitol and other nearby state government buildings to potential attack. He referenced the October shooting at Canada’s Parliament building to emphasis the point.

“I think we’ve put staff at risk. I think we’ve put school children and the citizenry at risk,” Paymar said. “I just think that we can’t operate by crossing our fingers and hoping it doesn’t happen.”

Paymar noted that some progress was made, including the hiring of additional security staff. But overall, he said he thought committee members were “not doing our job.”

Paymar said other states are far ahead of Minnesota and he hopes that future committee members "have the courage to address the issue.”

DFL Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, the committee chair, said she shared Paymar’s concern. Prettner Solon, who is also leaving office next month, said she wanted to make more changes too.

“We certainly are either not eloquent enough or convincing enough to be able to bring along the numbers of the members to make those changes,” Prettner Solon said.

A Republican member of the panel took issue with the bleak critiques. State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said he thinks they’ve made important strides in security improvements. But Ingebrigtsen still opposes the tighter gun rules that Paymar called for.

“Rep. Paymar and I certainly don’t see eye to eye on that,” Ingebrigtsen said. “We’re going to have a lot better security because of the work we’ve been doing here.”