Minneapolis and St. Paul police chiefs are concerned about a “shoot first” law that has been proposed for Minnesota.
Speaking: St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, Dave Pecchia – Executive Director, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota County Attorneys, and Seneator. John Harrington,(DFL-St. Paul).
State Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, joined the Minneapolis and Saint Paul chiefs of police and others today to express their opposition to the extreme firearms bill moving through the legislative process. Sen. Harrington, the former Saint Paul chief of police said the legislation does not contribute positively to the public safety of Minnesota.
“The bill would ultimately create unwanted loop holes, lower permit requirements, and endanger Minnesota citizens as well as law enforcement officers,” said Sen. Harrington. “Though I believe the intentions of this bill may have been to provide a sense of security to some, I am afraid it falls far short of creating any real public safety value and in turn will hinder law enforcement’s ability to effectively keep the peace.”
The bill would expand what is known as the “Castle Doctrine” and allow residents to use deadly force to defend themselves in more than just their homes, including, among other sites, a garage, motor vehicle, tent or boat. The state already provides the right for an individual to protect themselves with deadly force in public or in their home if they are facing imminent unlawful death or serious bodily harm, and there have been no cases of a person being charged when they were defending themselves under current law in Minnesota.
The bill reverses the common law “rule of retreat” that sets the standard that killing another person should be done only as a last resort. The bill allows shooting whenever there is a perceived threat, even if the shooter could safely walk away.
“Lowering the standards for the use of deadly force poses serious and unnecessary dangers to citizens and law enforcement,” said Sen. Harrington. “This provision would also provide legal cover for gang members to shoot and kill without any duty to retreat when involved in a confrontation with other gang members, and it would be more difficult to charge offenders for shooting someone because they could just claim they were threatened or another gang member was coming to get them.”
“As the chief of police for the Capitol City, my main concern is for the safety of our community and the officers who patrol our streets,” said Chief Thomas Smith, chief of police for the city of Saint Paul. “This proposed legislation will not only put officers’ safety at risk, it will allow for minor disturbances to be construed as a ‘threat.’ Our job as Saint Paul Police Officers is to work with our residents to ensure their safety, and the proposed legislation, in its current form, is ambiguous when it comes to the use of deadly force.”
The legislation would also create an unwanted loophole by allowing every firearm permit issued in the country valid in the state of Minnesota. Minnesota currently has higher requirements than many other states, and we require more extensive background checks and firearms training. Sen. Harrington said he supported the original permitting bill because he knew permit holders would have to take a training course that included material on Minnesota laws and cases. This bill would not require that a visitor to our state have any knowledge or understanding of our laws.
“The presumption that someone who carries a gun is safer is false,” said Chief Tim Dolan, chief of police for the city of Minneapolis. “A study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that those without guns are four times safer than those with guns when confronted by an armed assailant. Having and wearing a gun comes with heavy responsibilities and risks. The most well trained people in the United States with guns are your police, and yet we are still targets of those who would commit crimes.”
The bill has cleared public safety and judiciary committees and awaits a floor debate in both the Senate and the House.