Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 17
Minnesota lawmakers should not approve proposals that would weaken gun control rules
Once again, the fewer-gun-rules-the-better crowd proposes diluting Minnesota firearms regulations. And once again, that effort should be stopped.
Some GOP lawmakers resurrected various proposals this year thinking that their new legislative majority will help them pass. They introduced plans to eliminate carry permit requirements altogether and to broaden immunity for shooters who claim they were acting in self-defense. Similar bills have been offered in the past, but either never made it out of committee or were vetoed.
These ideas deserve the same fate this time around. Both ill-advised measures are solutions in search of problems. Current firearms statutes are fair and not overly burdensome or expensive for law-abiding gun owners. Requirements for gun permits are reasonable and helpful; the state should have information about those carrying guns.
Authors and supporters of the bills argue that they will strengthen and clarify Second Amendment rights. But those rights are not under challenge; this state allows the overwhelming majority of those who seek to purchase or carry a firearm to do so.
According to reports from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, during the past decade, 364,171 Minnesotans applied for carry permits and 98.8 percent of them were accepted. Only 1.2 percent (4,341) had permits denied, suspended, revoked, voided or canceled.
The cost of a permit to carry also is not excessive. A $100 permit lasts five years — at $20 per year, that means a gun permit costs less than many annual hunting and fishing licenses.
Similarly, Minnesotans can already defend themselves with a firearm within reasonable legal limits, so additional "stand your ground" protections are unnecessary.
Opponents of the bills include gun violence-prevention groups like Protect Minnesota and Every Town for Gun Safety who rightly argue that neither bill would improve public safety. They are joined by law enforcement groups including the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and the state association of county attorneys.
"(The bill) eliminates the safety training requirement ... allowing even people who have never handled a gun to carry one in public," said Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell, during testimony before the House Public Safety Committee earlier this month. In an interview, Schnell told an editorial writer that it doesn't make sense to give civilian shooters more latitude to use firearms than police officers. At a time of growing concern about use of deadly force, many departments are training officers in how to de-escalate the kinds of confrontations that have led to fatal shootings.
Law enforcement opposition to the measures carries great weight. Cops and county attorneys are on the front lines in dealing with gun violence and believe that the bills will put officers at greater risk.
After taking testimony, House committee members did not vote on the bills, opting to set them aside for inclusion in the larger public safety omnibus bill. Whether standing alone or as part of another bill, the proposals should not be approved. They would not make Minnesotans safer.
St. Cloud Times, March 18
Find Real ID solution now
Minnesotans are traveling on borrowed time.
The state's residents are still easily boarding airplanes and accessing many federal buildings with their driver's licenses for now, but only because of a federal extension of the rule know as Real ID. On Jan. 22, 2018, that extension runs out.
Real ID was passed by Congress in 2005, during the administration of George W. Bush. It sets out minimum proof-of-identity requirements for issuing state drivers licenses and ID cards used to access most federal facilities or board a flight in the U.S. Its purpose is to ensure that state-issued identification cards can be trusted to represent who they purport to, in short.
Minnesota is one five states that has not made progress toward meeting the standard. We need to leave that club.
Opponents of Real ID have for years offered arguments about why it's a bad idea. Those points range from the reasonable — concerns about federal overreach into state matters and worries about a national database of identifying documents open to employees of every DMV in the nation, as argued by the Cato Institute as far back as 2008 — to the absurd: Some opponents have contended Real ID is tantamount to the biblical "mark of the beast."
But the hang-up in Minnesota is rooted in immigration policy. Gov. Mark Dayton wants to use the Real ID issue to open the door to drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, but Republicans in the Legislature aren't having it: The Minnesota House passed a bill in February barring that idea. The Minnesota Senate rejected a similar Real ID bill 38-29 earlier this month on the strength of Democratic opposition to the immigrant license provision — and a few Republicans who wanted to put Washington on notice that we don't take kindly to ultimatums here.
To be clear: States may reject Real ID compliance. But if they do, their residents will incur all manner of hassle in return, and some not-insignificant expense. Employees of Minnesota's Fortune 500 companies will need a passport, enhanced driver's license or membership in a "trusted traveler" program like Global Entry to board a plane for a one-hour flight to Chicago. Parents will have to shell out more money (and plan far ahead) to get a passport or enhanced driver's license for their college student who wants to spend spring break in Lake Havasu, Arizona, or Padre Island, Texas. Church mission groups will need to factor such expenses into their plans to do summer mission work in Los Angeles or Mississippi, if they're going by plane. And anyone who has business in a federal building or nuclear power plant is likely to need a Real ID-compliant document that they probably don't have.
It's clearly time to divorce Real ID compliance from state policy on undocumented immigrants. Those issues can be more effectively debated and resolved if they are addressed separately.
In just over 300 days, our borrowed time runs out.
Post-Bulletin, March 18
Fine, apology from liquor store owner would do
Jim Surdyk — vigilante thirst-quencher, scofflaw booze-peddler, or just a guy who should have waited but didn't?
Should we celebrate the Minneapolis liquor store owner's devil-may-care attitude toward an antiquated blue law or condemn him for breaking a law he knew was still on the books?
For those of you who missed the story, the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton have approved the opening of liquor stores in Minnesota on Sundays, effective on July 2. Surdyk, owner of Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese Shop in northeast Minneapolis, threw caution to the wind last weekend and opened his doors last Sunday, months ahead of being allowed to.
He will be punished for it — to the tune of a $2,000 fine and a much more costly one-month suspension of his liquor license, starting July 2, the very day the new law goes into effect.
Some applauded Surdyk's decision last weekend, as if it plucked the string separating rebellion and rule of law. The rugged individualism our history celebrates is often at odds with our wish to in a lawful, orderly society.
Today, when we talk about the 1920s, we're more on the side of the bootleggers than the ardent prohibitionists — one of whom, Andrew Volstead, a congressman for whom the bill banishing booze was named, was from Kenyon.
Few celebrate Alabama Gov. George Wallace's despicable crusade for segregation in the 1960s, but many defend the display of the Confederacy's rebel flag as a celebration of heritage, no matter how hateful. We love retelling the story of our secession from England and all the rule-breaking that entailed, but we're uneasy whenever modern-day upheaval comes up.
We view that as a good thing. Revolutions make for great reading, and we can all relate to our outlaw heritage, but needless to say, revolutions generally lead to carnage and unintended consequences.
Some Americans defend the display of the Confederacy's rebel flag as a celebration of heritage, no matter how much a symbol of our nation's history of racism and slavery.
Surdyk's decision last weekend plays along these same lines. The store was sure to get busted, sure to be punished. They were also sure to win the adoration of the beer-drinking public and receive a boost of name-recognition. And who doesn't like a scofflaw, now and then?
Surdyk's reasoning: the bill had been approved, the governor had signed it into law, so what's the point of waiting for further permission?
Well, when the Legislature and governor implement new laws, change existing laws or overturn them completely, it takes time to work out all the details. People need to be informed. Consider President Trump's first travel ban. Much of it went into effect immediately, no one had figured out what all the implications were, and there was chaos in airports, customs offices, Congress and — well, just about everywhere else.
We applaud the city of Minneapolis for doing its duty and enforcing the law. The fine makes sense;
The long lines around Surdyk's store Sunday suggest they made more than enough money to cover the debt. But taking away the store's license for a month seems unreasonably harsh.
We hope Surdyk and the city will come to a more reasonable penalty, especially one that doesn't hurt his employees. Maybe an abject apology would do.