MN lawmaker warns cows can 'trample you into dust' during firearm storage debate

A Minnesota lawmaker raised concerns about cows trampling farmers "to dust" as he questioned a new firearm storage bill being considered in the state senate.

The strange discussion came Friday morning as lawmakers reviewed Senate File 4312 which sets standards for safe firearm storage in Minnesota. It requires gun owners to lock up their weapons when not directly using the firearm. If passed, violators could face a misdemeanor offense or potentially a felony charge if a loaded gun gets into the hands of a child due to unsafe storage.

During the hearing, Rep. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) questioned the bill's author, Sen. Heather Gustafson, about the proposal.

First, Sen. Limmer brought up concerns for homeowners trying to protect themselves during break-ins.

"There are individuals who feel threatened in their home or neighborhood," argued Limmer. "They may not even sleep well if they have a gun by their side in their own bedroom."

Limmer argued requiring homeowners to lock up their weapons would cause a "delay in reaction" when trying to intervene during a potential home invasion. "Those moments can come at a homeowner very quickly," Limmer explained. "Fumbling around for a lockbox key or anything else, I find this bill cumbersome in the face of defending one's self at home to a deadly threat."

Sen. Gustafson countered, noting her family owns guns and feels safe can be accessed relatively easily.

"We know that this [bill] will save lives," said Sen. Gustafson. "We know that there is a fear of people breaking in. Unless you're sleeping with all your windows open and your door wide open, you'll still have access to that quick second it might take to use a quick-release safe."

Limmer's next concern was farmers. It was this unusual argument that raised some eyebrows when a clip from the hearing was posted on Twitter on Monday.

"They not only have to have concerns about predation," explained Limmer. "But they also have concerns about their own domestic farm animals. Farm animals at times can be dangerous. Take for example, a cow that has just recently had a calf. You even walk too close to a cow, and it will take you down and trample you into dust."

"Many farmers have a readily available gun just for those emergencies," Limmer explained. "Fumbling around with a lock while a cow or a bull or any other animal is going after your daughter or your son, you can't fumble around with a key or try and find the lockbox or put your thumb on a biometric key of some sort in your home, while the danger is outside."

Limmer is correct that agriculture is certainly a dangerous job. However, data gathered by the University of Nebraska for its Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health – which uses incomplete data pulled from news reports – shows only three trampling deaths between 2012 and 2021 in Minnesota. The incidents include an 85-year-old man trampled by a cow while tagging a calf in 2018, a 41-year-old man trampled near a bull and two cows in 2019, and a 66-year-old man "assaulted" by a cow while trying to deliver a calf in 2020.

The biggest risks for farmers are equipment-related deaths and traffic collisions.