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Bill would let attorneys carry guns

A bill that would allow Minnesota prosecutors to carry firearms is likely headed to a floor vote in the House.

A legislative committee advanced the bill Thursday after several attorneys testified. The legislation would actually exempt county attorneys from a statute that prohibits local government employees from carrying firearms.

Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen said she is in favor of any measures to make prosecutors safer.

“I think anything that enhances the security of our staff and the public is always welcome,” Nelsen said.

Locally, a metal detector has been placed outside of Courtroom 1 in the Mower County Jail and Justice Center. Nelsen said it will be there for the near future.

The star witness at Thursday’s House public safety committee hearing was Tim Scannell, the Cook County attorney who was shot three times Dec. 15 by the man he had just successfully prosecuted in a criminal sexual conduct case.

“I don’t particularly like the idea that local government officials can’t carry weapons when other citizens can,” he said.

Several committee members, including Rep. Linda Slocum, DFL-Richfield, said they were concerned the bill would create confusion about bringing a gun into a courthouse and into the courtroom itself, where judicial order prohibits firearms.

Cornish explained that the bill would not affect the no-guns rule in courtrooms, and that courthouses would decide individually where else within the courthouse guns would be allowed.

Nelsen said individual offices should be able to regulate what their attorneys are and are not allowed to do when it comes to weapons.

“There’s a gap in the law and that’s what they’re trying to fix,” Nelsen said. “Each individual office and their attorneys should be able to regulate. (The right to carry) shouldn’t automatically be taken away just because you’re a prosecutor.”

Committee members later said they interpreted the bill as not allowing for guns in courtrooms and passed the bill without amendment to clarify language.

The bill is expected to head to the full House for a floor vote.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.