Late yesterday afternoon sportsmen and gun owners in Minnesota took yet another blow to the Personal Protection Act that was enacted in 2003 by the Minnesota Legislature. This time the MN Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling stating that the new law was improperly passed and signed into law.
At issue are the process and not so much the intent of the law allowing citizens to apply for permits to carry a concealed weapon. In fact, the ruling could have far-ranging consequences to a whole host of laws that have been passed over the years. It is common practice for bills in the legislature to be co-mingled with other “like measures" with broader application. The practice allows bills that wouldn’t ordinarily make it to a full vote on the floor a chance to see the light of day.
Moving a legislative bill from concept to law is no easy matter. It must go through many processes that weigh the merits of the proposal. If the bill sees any resistance, such as from a committee chairman who doesn’t want to discuss it, often times the measure will die. Of course, there is always lots of backroom politicking going on…but this doesn’t always work either.
During the course of several years there have been many bills introduced into the legislature suggesting changing Minnesota from a “may issue” to a “shall issue” state. In other words, the law passed in 2003 provided a consistent application of standards to all conceal carry applicants…and not at the personal whim of the local sheriff or chief of police. As things currently exist, a person in Duluth will now go through different scrutiny than a person in Fairmont…or Hibbing, etc. The MPPA, among other things, made everyone play by the same rules…but no more.
Check out this FAQ provided by the Minnesota House of Representatives:
Under the Minnesota Constitution, only single-subject laws may be passed by the Legislature. Theoretically, this requires that only amendments directly related, or "germane" to the measure, be attached to a bill. In practice, many amendments are added to bills. The terms "omnibus bill" or "garbage bill" are used when a bill contains what some people feel are unrelated subjects.
Many complaints of multiple-subject bills center around large appropriations and tax bills. An omnibus tax bill may cover various changes in several areas of tax law, such as income tax law, corporate tax law, and sales tax law. Amendments some people consider non-germane to the bill are sometimes included during conference committees, when time is running out during the session and compromises are made quickly. However, typically, those amendments have passed one of the bodies. [my emphasis]
The key word here is “non-germane.” Theoretically, now that the precedence has been set…any law that has been tagged onto a larger bill can be challenged and could stand a good chance of having the same fate as MPPA. Historically, the action from yesterday marks only the 5th time since Minnesota became a state (148 years ago) that a law passed by both bodies of the house and signed by the governor has been held by the courts to be unconstitutional on the basis of how it was passed.
Amazing. When the MPPA was voted into law it received passage by both bodies of the Minnesota legislature and there was ample discussion about the measure. In fact, it was one of the hottest issues of that particular legislative session. Still, when it came time for voting the measure passed both chambers and was sent to Governor Pawlenty’s desk for signature. Shortly thereafter it became law.
There was no sneaking this measure through the legislative session. At the conclusion of the 2003 session there wasn’t a legislator who was unaware the bill had passed. Like it or not, the issue was open and on the table from the day it was introduced by then Representative Linda Boudreau (Faribault) and until its passage into law.
Indeed, as a strong supporter of the MPPA I am pissed. The single-subject provision under which this law was challenged has a test. As set forth by the Minnesota Supreme Court, it observes that a common thread within topics of a legislative act must exist and that this need only be a mere filament. The MPPA was part of a larger and broader bill under the Minnesota DNR. How can a proposed law dealing with firearms not be found germane under a category that typically deals with a whole host of sportsmen issues (hunting, firearms transportation, etc.)?
It’s hard to tell where this will take us. Certainly supporters of MPPA plan to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court…but I don’t hold out much hope here. No, it looks like it is time to once again contact our elected officials and remind them that with more than 25,000 permits issued under the new law (since 2003)…NOT A SINGLE DEATH HAS OCCURRED as a result of some wild and crazed permit holder. Moreover, there have been several reported instances where permit holders have successfully intervened with no loss of life.
On May 7th there is a rally being planned at the Minnesota State Capitol by supporters of conceal carry. The rally was being planned long before the issue was decided yesterday. Right now I think it’s time to do two things: call your legislators and voice your opinion…and stay closely tuned in on an issue that promises many more interesting developments in the weeks and months to come.
© 2005 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.