Minnesota Republicans propose arming service members

Sen. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo, and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, listened to Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, outline his plans to allow active duty military personnel to carry guns. The three attended a July 27 news conference on the subject. MPR Photo | Tom Scheck

Some Republicans in the Legislature say they want to allow active military personnel in the state to carry firearms.

The move  would allow people in uniform to protect themselves if there is an attack on a military base or recruiting station, said Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa.

The lawmakers intend to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes in March to allow the change.

Two weeks ago, five servicemen were killed in Tennessee when a gunman attacked two military sites.

“Men and women in uniform are simply being attacked because they represent America, should have the right and the ability to defend themselves, Gazelka said, "Not just the right, they have to have the ability to carry that gun and to say if you shoot, I’m shooting back.”

Republicans also want Gov. Dayton to issue an executive order requiring national guard members to carry guns. Dayton said last week he thinks the federal government should decide the issue. The Defense Department does not support plans to arm all military personnel.

The director of a gun control group says the proposal would allow military personnel to escape background checks aimed at screening for past domestic abuse cases. Improving the background check system, not arming more people, is a better answer, said Heather Martens of the group Protect Minnesota.

"We're really concerned about cases where a dangerous person, who may happen to be active military, and has some issue where by they should not be carrying a gun, all of a sudden they can carry a gun without any kind of a screening,"  said Martens. "That is a threat to public safety."

A group on the other side of the gun issue, the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, said it supported both the proposed legislation and the call for Dayton to issue an executive order.

"The governors of several other states, including Wisconsin, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, and Florida have authorized the arming of National Guard members to deter attacks and allow them the ability to protect themselves and civilians in case they are targeted, " said Bryan Strawser, the group's director.

UPDATE: Dayton issued a statement saying he's relying on the judgment of General Richard Nash, the Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard, on which measures to take to protect the men and woman of the Guard.

Nash's spokesman, Kevin Olson, issued a statement saying their force protection measures "will not include arming Soldiers and Airmen whose regular duties are not security-related."

He said, however, that armed security officers are permanently stationed at the air bases in Duluth and Minneapolis and that security measures for state National Guard and federal facilities have and will continue to be evaluated and enhanced as it is deemed necessary‎.


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