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Republicans want Minnesota businesses liable for banning guns

If a coffee shop doesn't let you walk in with your gun, Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Crystal) says they should be liable if something bad happens to you.

If a coffee shop doesn't let you walk in with your gun, Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Crystal) says they should be liable if something bad happens to you. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

In Minnesota, you’re allowed to forbid guns on your property.

If you insist on bringing a firearm inside a coffee shop with a “no guns” sign, the owner can tell you to leave, and if you don’t, it’s a petty misdemeanor. (First offense is only about $25, and they can’t take your gun away, but still.)

Minnesota Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Crystal) believes that creates a “false sense of security.”

“As a permit to carry holder, it’s frustrating when you want to go out to Minneapolis and St. Paul and there’s a restaurant that says ‘no guns allowed,’” he says. “There’s nothing preventing criminals who carry guns from doing so… Maybe [the permit holder] has a restraining order, or they’re being stalked.”

Munson didn’t care to say exactly how often he carries his gun on him while in the Twin Cities. He did mention that there’s no restriction on carrying your gun with you to the Capitol, as long as you have a permit.

Munson (whose "fake news" Halloween costume you might remember) believes if something goes awry at one of those “no gun” restaurants or cafes, someone should be held accountable: whoever came up with that rule in the first place.

Under Munson’s proposed bill, HF3051, if you suffer a “loss” because you weren’t allowed to have your gun with you – be that injury, a death, or your wallet – you can take the property owner to court. It’s a way to “hold the business owner liable,” he told the Session Daily, “for not protecting people.” If businesses don’t like being responsible for their customers’ safety, he says, they can take the sign down and let citizens fend for themselves.

Tennessee introduced something similar back in 2016 -- mostly so anyone killed or injured by a "black bear or wild hog," as The Tennesseean put it, could take the property owner to task. The bill was susbsequently gutted and effectively reversed by an amendment, which made business owners immune from such lawsuits. 

Peter Riley, an attorney at Minneapolis personal injury firm Schwebel Goetz and Sieben, doesn’t think this is a feasible job for the courts.

“I respect the second amendment and I respect people’s rights to carry guns,” he says. But he has a few qualms about how this would work.

His first problem, he says, is breadth. “Loss” covers a lot of potential scenarios. Not only would it require a business to take responsibility for any criminal that sets foot on their property, it may require them to take responsibility for any stray animal that wanders to close and causes an accident. Think “30 to 50 feral hogs," or those Tennessee black bears. 

“What if a beaver crawls out of its lodge and chews on one of the tires of your car?” he asks. Is it the café’s fault you couldn’t shoot it?

He also doesn’t like his prospects proving his client having a gun could have changed the outcome. What kind of training has the shooter had? How good is her aim?

“Look at these terrible school shootings in schools with armed guards,” he says.

At last count, an estimated 43 percent of public schools have armed officers on campus, according to the National Center for Education Statistics – and that doesn’t count schools with private security guards or teachers who carry guns.

In 2018, armed guards in three high schools – Marshall County High School in Kentucky, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and Santa Fe High School in Texas – failed to prevent the high-profile shootings that occurred there. Researchers still aren’t sure how effective they are at averting tragedy.

Thinking of how insurance companies might react to Munson's bill, Riley says: “It would be a real headache."

The bill introduced by Munson and four Republican co-authors might be a nonstarter in the House, currently controlled by Democrats, and he doesn’t like his odds. He feels better about how it might play in the Republican-controlled Senate, however, which effectively smothered two gun safety laws that came to the table last year. A Senate version of his gun bill was introduced by Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids), though neither proposal has been given a hearing yet.

Business owners and individuals have rights, too, including to forbid guns on their property. All this bill does, Riley says, is erode that right.