St. Paul city council ignores Minnesota preemption law, passes gun storage mandate

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

Minnesota law is explicitly clear about the limits of local authorities in passing their own gun control measures. The state’s firearm preemption law declares that the “legislature preempts all authority of a home rule charter or statutory city including a city of the first class, county, town, municipal corporation, or other governmental subdivision, or any of their instrumentalities, to regulate firearms, ammunition, or their respective components to the complete exclusion of any order, ordinance or regulation by them.”


Despite that clear language and warnings from Second Amendment groups like the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, the city council in St. Paul has now imposed a new gun storage mandate on all residents requiring them to store their firearms locked up when they’re not actively under the control of the gun owner. It looks like the city council is betting that some sleight of hand on the part of gun control activists will allow them to sidestep the state’s preemption law.

Under the amendment to the St. Paul Legislative Code, gun owners who leave their weapons where “another person who is not an authorized user is likely to gain access, including a vehicle,” could be found guilty of attempting to discharge a firearm. Gun owners are exempted if they use a gun lock or place their firearms in a locked container.

Several council members credited the gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action for their involvement in the process. Representatives from the group approached the podium after the vote to thank the council.

“Guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Minnesota,” said Gretchen Damon with Moms Demand Action. “We must do better. With your vote today in favor of safe storage of firearms in St. Paul, we are not only doing better, you are saving lives.”

The Minnesota statute allows for local regulation on the discharge of firearms, which is why Moms Demand Action has come up with this convoluted and bizarre argument that keeping a gun in your bedside table for self-defense is somehow an attempt to discharge a firearm. No need to pull the trigger or even hold the gun in your hand; just the presence of a firearm not secured in a safe or with a gunlock would be enough under the ordinance to charge someone with the misdemeanor crime.


Shortly after the MDA-approved gun control ordinance was unanimously adopted by the city council, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus issued a statement blasting the vote and vowing to challenge the law if it’s ever actually enforced.

“The Council has been made keenly aware that the actions they are taking are unconstitutional and will be immediately voided by Minnesota’s state preemption law, leading us to believe they know they can’t actually enforce this ordinance,” said Rob Doar, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.

“In the unlikely event the city tries to enforce the unconstitutional provisions of this ordinance, we will be prepared to take swift legal action, ” added Doar.

The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus submitted written testimony to the city council, which detailed the violations of Minnesota’s preemption law and United States Supreme Court precedent inherent in the proposed ordinance.

St. Paul’s now the opposite of a Second Amendment sanctuary; vowing to enforce laws they don’t have the power to right rather than pledging to not enforce laws that violate the rights of residents. I’m not as confident as Doar is about whether or not this ordinance will actually be enforced, so I’m glad to see the Caucus is ready to step in and challenge the new law once a potential plaintiff has standing to sue. I’m all in favor of keeping your firearms stored safely, especially if you’ve got minors in the home, but the city’s one-size-fits-all mandate is actually going to put people at risk of not being able to defend themselves in their own home in the case of a violent home invasion or midnight prowler. That puts this ordinance at odds not only with Minnesota’s firearm preemption statute, but the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller striking down Washington, D.C.’s very similar storage requirement, and if this ordinance is enforced the courts should make quick work of its disposal.



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