Proposed Bill Would Allow MN Teachers to be Armed

Updated: 01/30/2013 10:02 AM KSTP.com By: Naomi Pescovitz

The gun debate has now reached the Minnesota Legislature. Lawmakers are working to file bills before committee hearings next week. Some of those bills will be part of a large package on state gun laws.

"We have to get away from what I call the surrender mentality," said Rep. Michael Paymar, (DFL) St. Paul, Chair of the Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

The committee will meet for three days next week and hear 10 bills or more about guns.

"I've said to all members of the house, if they are interested in having their bill heard, we will hear it," Paymar said.

Proposals include limits on the sizes of bullet clips and allowing teachers to be armed at school.

Paymar is behind a bill on universal background checks.

"To plug the gun show loophole, that would also plug another loop hole which is the purchase of pistols and semi automatic weapons on the internet," Paymar said.

A different bill would ban and redefine an assault weapon in Minnesota, somewhere Rep. Tony Cornish, (R) Vernon Center, says he won't budge an inch.

"Right now the AR-15, what they call an assault rifle, is one of the most popular hunting rifles for coyotes and predators, it's legal for big game, it's an actual hunting rifle," Cornish said.

Cornish says his mailbox is full with hundreds of emails from concerned constituents asking him to stick to his guns.

"Anytime you get a legislator trying to define the difference between a sporting firearm and an assault rifle, you run into big trouble because it's each to his own definition," Cornish said.

Cornish is also proposing a bill that would allow teachers to arm themselves at school. If passed, school employees who have handgun permits could to notify their principals or superintendents in writing that they would be carrying a weapon. The letter would be kept as private data.

"In the time it takes you to dial 911, 5 kids are going to die. In the time it takes you for the cops to get there, 5 more kids are going to die. And this craziness about not having teachers armed when you've got that sort of rapid death occurring waiting for help is just, it's outweighed by the need to have somebody there," Cornish said.

A second part of Cornish's proposal would allow staff and students 21 years old and older to carry guns on college campuses.

"I don't think that the answer is arming teachers and I don't think that... arming college professors, I don't think that that enhances public safety," Paymar said.

Next week at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, the committee will hear public testimony on proposed bills.

"The politics of all of this is at the end of the day I want something that can pass this legislature, that Governor Dayton will sign, that's common sense, that does some good. I don't want to have these hearings just for window dressing," Paymar said.

"This is a state that passed the right to hunt and fish, it's a gun state. Huge ownership with guns flying off the shelves. And people are worried about losing their constitutional right," Cornish said.

Click here for a link to the committee schedule.