ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A state security panel backed the idea of more regular permit checks for gun owners who want to carry weapons in the State Capitol, but fell short of votes Tuesday on a proposal to ban guns altogether in certain state government buildings or areas.
Currently, permit holders only have to notify the state once that they might carry a firearm into the Capitol or any of 16 other buildings on the main state government campus in St. Paul.
The Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security is charged with recommending policy changes to the Legislature to shore up security procedures. Initially, the committee considered a yearly permit check, but ultimately opted Tuesday to recommend that be done once every five years.
But, as has frequently happened in a series of panel meetings in recent months, the six-member group split along party lines regarding tougher restrictions.
The panel’s chair, Democratic Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, and state Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, supported tougher restrictions that fell short of the votes needed to pass. One would have banned guns in the Capitol along with the adjacent State Office Building and the Judicial Center. Another would have banned them in the House and Senate chambers and in hearing rooms.
Under the proposals, metal detectors would have to be installed to screen visitors at public Capitol entrances.
“When I go to the U.S. Capitol, I have to go through metal detectors,” Prettner Solon said. “I have entered other state capitol buildings — in Arkansas, in Oklahoma — and had to go through metal detectors.”
The two GOP lawmakers on the panel voted against recommending the restrictions in a January report that the panel will give to the full Legislature.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said such restrictions would penalize law-abiding gun owners.
He also pointed out that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has publicly said he has no problem with law-abiding gun owners carrying their weapons at the Capitol. Prettner Solon’s support for more restrictive measures was a high-profile split with Dayton, who chose her as his running mate in 2010.
While Democrats who hold the legislative majority have three voting members on the panel, one — Sen. Ann Rest of New Hope — was absent. And state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea abstained from voting on policies related to guns in state buildings because she said the court might have to weigh in at some point.
The panel did back several other recommendations to send to the Legislature, one to increase the number of State Patrol officers posted on the Capitol campus from eight to 12; and another to increase the number of non-sworn security officers from 40 to 67.
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