State Gun Laws

HF 954/SF 722, the National Instant Check System Improvement bill, which we worked hard to pass, was signed into law on May 21, 2009.

We're pleased to announce that the National Instant Check System (NICS) Improvement Act passed with overwhelming support in the Minnesota House and Senate and was signed by the governor! This bill, a response to the Virginia Tech massacre, requires state courts to notify the Federal firearm background check system when a person is prohibited from owning a firearm for mental illness reasons. Before the Virginia Tech massacre, courts in Virginia, Minnesota, and many other states were not transferring this data. That is why the Virginia Tech shooter was able to pass a background check, buy guns, and kill 32 people.

Thanks to the NICS Improvement act, Minnesota will close this data gap. Citizens for a Safer Minnesota and our allies have been working on this bill for a year. We played a central role in getting the bill drafted, getting chief authors, and adding bi-partisan co-authors. Throughout the session, we made sure the bill language stayed to true to intent.

The "Shoot First" bill, which we oppose, did not advance in 2009.

We are pleased that the deadly "Shoot First" bill, HF 800/SF 893, did not pass. We visited many legislators and explained what the Shoot First bill would actually do. Many legislators were not aware that Shoot First would allow the shooting of anyone who opens the gate to some else's yard, no matter what the person's intent. Many also did not realize that the Rule of Retreat, which Shoot First would eliminate, is not a rule to surrender when under attack. It just means that if you don't have to kill someone -- if a safe alternative is available -- then you're not entitled to. This is the normal-person standard of behavior. Shoot First would change the standard from that of a normal person to that of a sociopath (killing unnecessarily) and provide more legal defenses for gang members who kill.

HF 800/SF 893: “Personal Defense” “Shoot First,” “Expanded Castle Doctrine” bill

SF 893, a new "Shoot First" bill introduced in Feb. 2009 in Minnesota, would greatly broaden the circumstances under which people could kill without facing prosecution. It would abandon the basic standard that requires responsibility in the use of deadly force.

Make no mistake. We support the right to self-defense. And Minnesota law already provides that right.

As they have done in other states, proponents say Minnesotans currently don’t have the right to defend themselves. That claim is absolutely false.

The “Shoot First” bill overhauls Minnesota law on the justifiable taking of life in two ways:

  1. Near the home: As soon as someone opens the gate to enter another person’s yard, the person entering the yard would be “presumed to do so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving a life-threatening level of force,” and a homeowner could legally take that person’s life.
  2. In public places and in a car: The bill eliminates one’s responsibility to escape a dangerous situation if possible before resorting to taking a life.

“Shoot First” is a “solution in search of a problem,” says Ramsey County Prosecutor Susan Gaertner. Indeed, the bill did not arise from any problem in Minnesota. It is part of a National Rifle Association strategy to get this law adopted everywhere. Adopted in 10 states, it is proposed in nine more.

Home invasions are rare. Cases of people getting in trouble for defending themselves are so rare that proponents haven’t produced one in Minnesota.

In Florida, where the “Shoot First” law took effect last year, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association says the law is unnecessary and complicates murder prosecutions of people who are too quick to fire a weapon. The Florida law is being used by an alleged gang member in Liberty City to defend himself against charges in the death of nine-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins, who was caught in the crossfire in an armed street conflict.

In Louisiana, where the “Castle Doctrine” has been in effect for many years, Yoshi Hattori, a Japanese high school exchange student, was shot to death in 1992. After accidentally going to the wrong address for a Halloween party, Hattori was shot in the back by the homeowner as he was leaving. The homeowner was charged, but under “Castle Doctrine” law, he was not convicted.

The NRA has been taking this bill around the country attempting to get it passed. Some states have been smart and voted it down. For more information on how this law is going state to state see

Listen to a podcast from WCCO about the bill.

Minnesota H.F. 415: Constitutional Amendment to Keep and Bear Arms

An Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution has been proposed that proponents falsely claim parallels that of the U.S. Constitution. But the wording of this bill makes it very different from that right afforded by the U.S. Constitution.

This bill, if passed, would serve to place all regulations placed on gun ownership and use in jeopardy.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads as follows:

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The Supreme Court has ruled that there is an individual right to own firearms, but that right is not unlimited. Specifically, regulations forbidding convicted felons and domestic abusers from buying guns are constitutional, the court has ruled.

The Minnesota bill reads:

The right of a citizen to keep, bear, and use arms for the defense and security of the person, family, or home, or for lawful hunting, recreation, or marksmanship training is fundamental and shall not be infringed.

If you value the right of the people:

  • to regulate ownership and possession of arms, and
  • to pass laws to keep guns out of the hands of children, teens and criminals

then you must oppose this bill.