Senator Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) introduced legislation on Monday allowing active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard to conceal and carry personal firearms without first obtaining a permit in Minnesota.
The same exemption is already in statute for peace officers.
The legislation follows last week’s shooting at a Chattanooga military recruitment center that left five servicemen dead, which started a nationwide debate on whether to arm active-duty members of the armed forces.
Rules currently prohibit military personnel from carrying firearms in civilian areas like military recruitment centers and bases, leaving them unable to defend themselves from attacks.
“Like our police force, military servicemen and women are highly trained in firearm use and safety, and have undergone extensive background checks in order to serve our country,” Sen. Gazelka said. “They put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to protect us, and the least we can do is give them the ability to defend themselves.”
The legislators also called on Governor Dayton to follow the lead of governors in other states who have issued executive orders allowing members of the National Guard to carry weapons on duty.
“Recent tragedies serve as grim reminders of the ultimate sacrifice, at home and abroad, that our servicemen, women and their families sometimes unfortunately make serving our country,” Rep. Heintzeman said. “As the best trained military in the world, these men and women are more than qualified to be eligible for a conceal and carry permit.”
But not everyone agrees. Gun control supporter Heather Martens believes more guns in this case is not the answer.
"If the US military is not doing it in the way this proposal would like then it would make it questionable,” she said. "The single-most effective is to have strong enough gun laws so that people who are dangerous like this shooter have to pass a background check.”
In the days since the Chattanooga shooting, reports have surfaced that suggest two service members actually fired back at the shooter with guns the likely should not have had.
The bill is expected to be officially introduced in the 2016 Legislature, which convenes on March 8, 2016.