House passes county attorneys with guns

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State statute prohibits local government employees, other than licensed peace officers, from carrying firearms. A few more people could be added to that list.

Passed 116-15 by the House, HF1829 would allow a county attorney or assistant county attorney to carry a firearm on duty provided they have a state-issued permit to carry. A county attorney could still restrict an assistant county attorney from carrying while on duty.

Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center), the bill’s sponsor, emphasized the bill was not a “knee-jerk reaction” of the Dec. 15 Grand Marais incident in which Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell was shot by Daniel Schlienz after the latter was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and that it had been brought to him a week before the shooting. However, the incident brought attention to the measure.

“Not all county attorneys, maybe not even the majority, will exercise this privilege under this legislation,” Cornish said. He added that there are “a lot of judges that are packing heat under their robes and approve of this also for the county attorney.”

The bill would not supersede a judge’s right to ban firearms from their courtroom or courtroom complex.

“The concern about security in county courthouses throughout the state remains a very serious problem, particularly the inconsistency,” said Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul). “This bill in no way deals or addresses that issue in any kind of manner. It’s an issue we’re going to have to keep paying attention to.”

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) is the sponsor.