ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Advisory Committee on Capitol Security does not draw the biggest crowds for hearings, but bring guns and permits into the conversation and that's a recipe to pack a hearing room, even in the middle of summer.
Members discussed firearms at the Capitol on Tuesday. Currently, there are 841 citizens who have contacted the state's Public Safety Commissioner for permission to carry inside the building. The discussion on this day echoed earlier gun hearings at the Capitol during the regular session.
"What rights do we citizens who are unarmed have?" a pastor asked a committee.
"People's feelings are important but not nearly as important as their rights," another man countered.
Seven people spoke in favor of not allowing firearms in the statehouse, while seven spoke in favor of keeping the status quo. Each side was given 15 minutes to address the committee, which may or may not make a recommendation on the issue to the legislature as a whole.
"This case has proven that nothing is broken. We don't need to fix anything. This idea of running around scared bothers me," Republican Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen said, noting there have never been any major, gun-related problems at the capitol.
"I want us not to be overlooking anything. I want us to make sure that we're providing the best safety we can for the public," DFL Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon, the committee chair, told KARE 11.
She also says some staff members at the Capitol have told her they are intimidated and uncomfortable with the sight of firearms in the building.
Linda Winsor, who testified at the capitol for stricter gun regulations during the regular session, echoed the Lt. Governor's statement.
"People can say you shouldn't feel intimidated, but there were a lot of intimidating people who were carrying guns, and (they) felt like we were trying to take away their rights to carry guns," she said after Tuesday's hearing.
Shelley Leeson notified the Public Safety Commissioner of her intent to carry her firearm in the Capitol back in January. She says the current conversation has wandered the wrong direction.
"The problem is the threats outside of (the permit holders). So what's happening here is that the minutia and the comments are being focused solely on permit holders," she explained.
The hearing wrapped up without a recommendation as lawmakers wait for more information.
They're waiting for research on permit holders in Minnesota and they're waiting on a study being done that compiles information from other state capitols and how they handle this issue.
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