Minnesota law enforcement authorities are stepping up their efforts to combat gun violence in response to recent increases in crimes involving guns. Police are using national ballistics databases to identify and track guns that may have been used in crimes. Even staunch Second Amendment proponents are calling for better background checks for firearm purchases, and a bipartisan group of legislators recently introduced a bill in Minnesota that would require background checks for firearm purchases between private parties.
These increased enforcement efforts may be superficially appealing, but they can place law-abiding citizens at risk of facing charges in Minnesota for a gun crime even where no other criminal activity or intent is present. Consider, for example, that a legitimate firearm might misunderstand a legal term on an application to purchase a gun. That misunderstanding can lead to charges of making a false statement on that application. Further, the newly-proposed Minnesota legislation exempts a gun owner from certain background check requirements for transfers of firearms to family members, but even with that exemption a gun owner can be confused as to who qualifies as a family member. Gun owners can also be exposed to civil liability for negligent storage of firearms if minor children suffer injuries from an accidentally discharged weapon that was improperly secured. To minimize and control these risks, Minnesota firearm owners need to familiarize themselves with gun laws that apply to them.
First, carrying a handgun in public without a proper permit is a crime. The applicable Minnesota statute on carrying handguns includes several exceptions to this law, including transporting a handgun from your house to your place of business, and delivering a gun to a service facility for repairs. The exceptions to this law can add to the confusion over when and whether a person can legally carry a handgun. When you are in doubt over you can legally possess a handgun in a particular location, you should consult with an attorney who is familiar with the applicable Minnesota law.
Next, certain classes of individuals (e.g. convicted felons, illegal aliens, persons with mental health or substance abuse issues, etc.) are prohibited from possessing a firearm in Minnesota. These prohibitions are greater for certain types of firearms, including some semi-automatic rifles. Again, check with an attorney if you have any questions regarding these prohibitions.
Third, you can be charged with a felony crime in Minnesota for recklessly discharging a firearm in certain municipalities, or for intentionally firing a gun where doing so endangers another person’s safety. These are commonsense restrictions that are designed to minimize gun violence in more highly-populated areas. The bottom line with these laws is that if you own and use your gun in Minnesota, you have an obligation to exercise a high level of safety when you operate that gun.
Next, if you are charged with a non-gun related crime (e.g. drug possession) in Minnesota but you are in possession of a gun when you are charged, you might face enhanced charges and penalties, including mandatory minimum and increases in maximum jail sentences.
The balance between an individual’s Second Amendment rights and the State’s interest in protecting its citizens is currently tilting away from the individual. If you are charged with a crime in Minnesota and you are in possession of a firearm when you are charged, the State will inevitably attempt to make a stronger case against you. The attorneys at the Speas Law Firm in Minneapolis have extensive experience in navigating the State’s gun laws and in defending individuals charged with gun crime. Please contact us if you have been charged with a gun crime or you have any questions about how Minnesota’s gun laws might affect your rights to own and use a firearm in the State.