Hundreds Carry Guns At State Capitol And It’s Legal

By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Minnesota lawmakers say they are trying to make the Capitol safer after the shooting of an Arizona Congresswoman.

In fact, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed a bipartisan security committee to review security at the Capitol and report back to him ASAP.

But hundreds of people are allowed to walk freely into state buildings — even the legislature and the governor’s office — carrying weapons.

Without getting checked.

Minnesota gun laws allow permit holders to carry weapons almost anywhere in public, after they have taken classes in gun proficiency. But at the 35 buildings that comprise the State Capitol complex in St. Paul, special rules apply. Permit holders are required to notify public safety officials before they enter.

It’s a system that allows hundreds of people to wear handguns; mixing with lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists.

Documents obtained by WCCO 4 News show 391 people since 2005 have notified security of their intention to carry a weapon at the Capitol complex.

That’s nearly two guns for every one of Minnesota’s 201 legislators.

“That’s kind of surprising,” said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul.

Hansen is part of the special Capitol Security Committee that inspected the list of gun carriers at the Capitol.

Like many lawmakers, he was unaware of how many Minnesotans bring guns to the Capitol.

“This is kind of surprising, and there are quite a few — relatively recent,” said Hansen.
In fact, in the three weeks since the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, 25 more people registered to carry a gun at the Capitol complex, where 14,000 employees work.

That includes one citizen who made it known he’ll be wearing a gun when he visits his state representative.

“I’m coming down to the State Capitol to meet with my State Representative in the future,” writes one unidentified gun permit holder to the State Department of Public Safety on Jan. 31.  “I would like to be able to use my permit to carry a pistol.”

The Minnesota State Patrol, which oversees Capitol security, said the increase in guns at the state’s most visible landmark has not compromised safety.

“It’s a very safe place to be,” said State Patrol Capt. Matt Langer. “And that’s proven in our history, and we believe that will be the case in the future. And we haven’t had cases where it’s been a problem.”

Capitol security has the names on file of everyone who carries a weapon in Capitol buildings. But no one else knows, including fellow workers.

The information is private under state law; identifying information is blacked out on the notification letters provided to WCCO-TV.

But not everyone follows the rules.

At a Tea Party rally last year, several protesters openly carried guns, saying they were unaware of the law requiring disclosure.

“It’s my constitutional right,” said one.

For many lawmakers, permit holders who follow the rules when they bring guns to the Capitol aren’t a problem: It’s the gun carriers who do not.

“What are the threats here at the Capitol?” asked Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, who is a member of the Capitol Security Committee.

“What are our vulnerabilities? What are the things we can do to mitigate that?” asked Woodard. “And if we come to the conclusion that it is a legitimate threat and that we’re vulnerable in that area, then we’ll do some mitigation steps to make sure we’re safer.”

Capitol security offices keep a file with the names of gun permit holders who notify them they’ll be carrying a weapon, but they do not know how many work at the Capitol every day. Permit holders aren’t required to tell the Minnesota Department of Public Safety where they work.

More from Pat Kessler
  • Andrew Rothman

    Talk about a non-story! There are 80,000 Minnesota permit to carry holders, and you most likely won’t hear about any of them.

    We are trained in the safe handling and use of a pistol. We pass a shooting qualification. We pass state and federal criminal background checks. We pass a mental health background check. We pass a chemical abuse background check.

    We are legislators, researchers, lobbyists and private citizens. We’re your friends, neighbors, pastors, grocers, firefighters, real estate agents and lawyers.

    We are, in short, law-abiding citizens. You don’t hear about our carry permits any more than you hear about our seat belts or our smoke detectors. They’re all for “just in case,” and we hope we never need them.

    Did you know that down in the capitol cafeteria, they have GREAT BIG SHARP KNIVES? It’s true. But the knife-wielding chefs don’t pose a threat, either. They have lawful tools for lawful purposes.

    Still, I find the number of permit holders authorized to carry at the capitol a little bit disturbing, too. I had hoped that more law-abiding, gun-carrying citizens would take an interest in what their public servants are doing, and stop by once in a while to share their views.

    I’ll continue to encourage gun-owning voters to make sure that their representatives in St. Paul hear from them, too.

    • Andrew Rothman

      Oh, and Pat? I’m one of those permit holders who has notified the commissioner. Feel free to get in touch.

    • Chris V.

      Stated very well Andrew and I completely agree!

      • Grant Kemp

        It sounds like News Crews are searching for a story; a story that has no problems to report — but try to stir the pot and see if we can find some wrong doers. What a wast e of time.

    • Dan Sharp

      Pat, if you’re just realizing now what’s going on with legal, law abiding gun owners being at the capital, YOU SHOULD BE FIRED!!

      You call yourself a reporter??

  • Chris V.

    I find this interesting that they are making such a big deal about this. Their stats show that 390 people carry into the capitol on a regular basis and there has not been a single person shot at our capitol. I want to know what others have to say about this

  • Ben

    I think it must have been a slow news day or something. I totally agree with Andrew. I would feel safer at the MN state capital than the University of Minnesota. I am sick of people trying to punish law abiding citizens who carry guns. Trying to scare people into passing silly laws to protect them actually makes them less protected. I wish the news media would stop trying to scare people about guns. Making stricter gun laws Do NOT make people safe. Look at the US prison system, the strictest places on the planet in regards following the law, drugs still get in and people still get killed…

    People you cannot think that making laws will protect you, sometimes just sometimes you may have to depend on yourself. Some people are sheep and some people are sheep dogs. I am a sheep dog.

  • Rick

    What exactly are you guys so afraid of that you can’t leave the house without a gun?

    • Ezra Gonzalez

      What are you so afraid of that you would lock your doors when you leave your house?

    • illbits

      I’m afraid of the fact so few people are armed. I’m also afraid of the fact that what was once a Right has become a privilege. When people don’t exercise their Rights they lose them.

    • Ellen

      One word Rick…CRIMINALS! And it isn’t fear, it’s a desire to feel safe from aforesaid criminals. Like the song says, LOOK IT UP! Criminals..someone who doesn’t obey laws and will shoot, stab, beat, rob, and rape unprotected citizens.

    • Greg

      I could ask you why you wear a seat belt, why you have smoke detectors in your house, why you carry homeowners insurance and why you own a fire extinguisher?

      What are YOU afraid of?

  • JD Anderson

    I feel safer now knowing there are LAW ABIDING CITIZENS (key words), that will protect me if some NON LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (key words) wants to smoke weed and go on a shooting spree. I might be wrong but to me the Gifford shooting seemed random. Seemed like he wanted to do the suicide thing first but happened upon opportunity. Maybe if a LAW ABIDING CITIZEN in the Gifford lineup would have had a permit to carry, perhaps there would be a few less dead and wounded. Is Mr. Dayton gonna take away the good guy’s guns?, cause I don’t think the bad guy’s will care. And Pat, thanks for putting me at ease, I know there are people at the capitol who will protect others and myself, but please report both sides would ya?

    • Frank Z

      Weed smokers don’t shoot people, crack heads do. I do feel safer with law abiding citizens carrying. I think our second amendment right is awesome and should be exercised by all.

  • Jena

    More guns = less crime!!!

  • Chuck Thomas

    There must have been an awful lot of shootings by peopole LEGALLY carrying guns at the capttol for WCCO to make such a big deal out of this NON-STORY. Instead of this approach, why not stress the fact that there are a lot of firearms being carried with NO incicdents at the capitol.

  • Ellen

    I agree with all the comments here…they are absolutelly true! Now if only we could get Pat Kessler to read the comments and learn something! So 391 people have carried guns onto the capital complext in 6 years. Not very many at all considering, and probably many of them are lawmakers. Even State Patrol Matt Langer isn’t concerned about the guns. All we have to fear is fear itself, and
    criminals don’t obey laws anyway & continue to harm people! What I fear is more laws and government control of our lives.

  • Rocketman

    Pat Kessler is a journalist? This article has already been recycled once or twice. With a few more twists it could show up in The National Enquirer.

  • Carlson

    391 people over FIVE years. well that averages out to be 1 gun getting carried in to the complex every 3-4 days. i think security should be able to control the situation, if only once a week. bunch of cry babies. I bet there are more guns being carried into schools than that EVERY YEAR. Just focus on keeping guns away from kids and leaving them in the hands of responsible adults. ps America- ditch the fruitcake attitude and harden the ____ up!

    • Peace

      First, growing up with 5 other kids, my oldest brother at a very very young age would often sneak in and get my dads loaded gun who thought it was well hid and than sneak it back after shooting it.
      Second, we create the world we want to live in. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to carry a gun to feel safe. To me that is cowardly and weak. To me that is hell. I prefer to trust in God, that shows my true strength, and live in peace of mind. Before you know it the weak and spineless, will have unmanned spy drones in every city cause of the paranoia guns will create for them. When will all this madness end! Paranoid

      • Mike

        First, I think proper gun education would have been a benefit to all children. Second, a loaded gun should not be available to children. Third, God sends people like me and my gun to protect people like you. Sometimes looking for answers from God isn’t as difficult as one would think. In a perfect utopia one wouldn’t have to worry about anything, but man will never live in a perfect utopia.

  • Andrew Rothman


    What exactly are you so afraid of that you have smoke detectors on every level of your home, AND a fire extinguisher or two? What are you so afraid of that you put on your seat belt every time you leave your driveway?

    How afraid of guns are you that you are afraid of background-checked individuals carrying them?

    Seriously, people have ALWAYS been able to carry at the capitol. The legislature only added the notification requirement in 1994. How many problems have we had with guns at the capitol since 1858?

    There’s so much worthy of worry in the world… but not about this.

  • illbits

    I can proudly say I’m one of the 25 people who have recently sent notification of my intent to carry at the Capitol. I can also say I chose to do so because of alarmist journalism such as we see here. Just because almost 400 people have sent letters of notification does not mean they all regularly patrol the Capitol like vigilante crime fighters. It simply means that almost 400 people have taken an important precaution to avoid grtting charged with a felony offense for not notifying the commissioner of public safety of intent to carry at the Capitol should they so choose. Please stop painting us as maniacs. There are plenty of real maniacs you could write about that would make a far better news story. In fact, try writting a piece about the maniacal fact bending journalists who use misinformation to attack the very foundation of freedom and civil rights in America.

  • JB

    comments are being auditted and deleted. I hope that does not surprise you.

  • Saggin

    Boo! Draw your piece. There be a black man in da house!

    • Hardrada

      OMG you’re right! Wait…it’s only myself. Whew, that was close.


    • illbits

      Do a little research and you’ll quickly find that gun control is rooted in racism. It’s the gun control crowd that’s afraid of the color of your skin, not us man.

  • Jeffrey Larson

    I am very disappointed with WCCO for the negative view point that this “news” piece placed on our 2nd Amendment rights. I really thought they had more integrity with their reporting. We walk among law-abiding citizens with guns everyday and it’s a nonevent. I do want to thank you WCCO for being the catalyst for me to take advantage of my 2nd Amendment rights. I will be purchasing a handgun, getting a conceal and carry permit and registering it with the Capitol.

  • Michael F.

    I’m with Mr. Rothman, on this topic. I’m one of the first to have gotten his permit under our carry law, and one of the first to file my letter to carry at the Capitol. At the 2009 Tea Party rally (, a photo of me openly carrying a weapon was taken, and appeared on the cover of following Sunday’s paper.

    Believe me, I am FULLY aware of my obligations under the law as regards carry at the Capitol.

    If you need to ask me anything to improve the news value of this story, by all means feel free to contact me.

  • Paul

    When Minnesota changed its concealed carry law to make it consistent, the media screamed that it would make our state like the wild west. It never happened. This story’s banner line and picture are deliberately alarmist and designed to give the impression that weapons are carried into the capitol with no restriction. The story also contradicts itself, stating that “hundreds of people are allowed to walk freely into state buildings- even the legislature and governors office -carrying weapons without being checked,” but then follows with the admission that those carrying weapons into the capitol complex have to notify safety officials first. The bias of this story is incredibly blatant. It uses spin and misinformation to create an issue where there is none and further an anti-gun agenda. It is refreshing to see that like the rest of the mainstream media, WCCO has dropped the ridiculous pretense of objective reporting and shown it’s true colors.

  • Taco Melchior

    “Now if only we could get Pat Kessler to read the comments and learn something!”

    -Reading the comments at is no way to learn anything.

  • David Boone

    What, no blazing gun battles on the floor of the House or Senate? Must be some kind of gigantic media cover-up.

  • Mike Housman

    I too must confess I am one of the “crazies” that has a permit to carry. Also, I have notified the commissioner of my intent to carry on capitol grounds. I’ve been to the capitol once in the last year since I sent my notice, and was able to restrain myself from shooting any of those nasty politicians. ;-) This story is almost laughable. The only sobering thought is that some moron might actually think this is a problem.

  • Hardrada

    The most laughable part of the story is that 391 people have carried a gun into the capitol complex since 2005…and that’s almost 2 for every legislator! Yes, that would be true if all 391 people came in on the same day, which of course they didn’t.

    Or we could look at it another way: 391 people carried a gun into the capitol over a 6 year time-span, or in other words 2,190 days. That averages to one person carrying a gun about every 5 days, but of course that doesn’t sound quite as scary as the original claim.

  • Bill Elliot - STP

    —But not everyone follows the rules.
    At a Tea Party rally last year, several protesters openly carried guns, saying they were unaware of the law requiring disclosure.—

    Where, when, who? Inside Minnesota state capitol buildings? We have conceal/carry here, if someone was carrying openly then they were disclosing their armed status quite evidently.

    Man, this sort of lazy fear-mongering from people who are ignorant about laws and firearms makes me sad for the nation.

    • illbits

      They were “unaware” of the law requiring disclosure because it does not apply to people with pistol permits carrying on the lawn outside of the Capitol buildings, it applies to people carrying inside the Capitol grounds buildings only. This junk journalism is just slanderous divel.

  • Bruce Radway

    A true non-news story. We have law abiding gun owners with properly obtained permits to carry a concealed handgun (weapon (actually, the law does not require that the weapon be concealed, but gun owners with a permit to carry know better than to make it known that they do carry) and the focus of the story is whether others in the general population feel safer knowing that 300+ people might be carrying a weapon? Come on Pat! You’ve outdone yourself this time Ted Koppel couldn’t have done it better. You should have done your report on illegal gun toters on the mean streets of Minneapolis. By the way… they probably wouldn’t identify themselves either!

  • Rob Doar

    I’m glad they did the story. Fox 9 did a similar story, on the 12th… I’m willing to bet that caused the 25 number bump. Hopefully this “story” will have a similar if not greater result.

  • Teresa

    I also beleive this was a non-news story that Pat tried to twist into something of importance. Personally, it drove me a little crazy how it was all focused on us carrying just in the Capitol. Over the years, I’ve been down there and maybe it’s just me, but a couple of times the main parking lot was full and I had to park more than a few blocks away. I don’t mind walking, but was sure glad I wasn’t “alone” walking to and from my car, esp when it was dark!

    Andrew, your responses were right on the money!

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