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'Shoot First' bill expanding self-defense rights passes in Minnesota Senate

ST. PAUL - A bill that would expand Minnesotans' self-defense rights was approved 40-23 Thursday night by the state Senate. The Personal Protection Act - known by many opponents as the "shoot first" bill - extends the right to use deadly force fo...

Sen. Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas, Minn.
Joined by fellow Republicans, Sen. Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas talks Thursday about her bill that allows Minnesotans to defend themselves with guns beyond what current law allows. With her are Sens. Michelle Benson of Hame Lake and Dave Thompson of Lakeville. (Don Davis, Forum Communications)

ST. PAUL - A bill that would expand Minnesotans' self-defense rights was approved 40-23 Thursday night by the state Senate.

The Personal Protection Act - known by many opponents as the "shoot first" bill - extends the right to use deadly force for personal protection outside the home to any place where an individual lawfully can be, sponsor Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, said.

"This bill isn't just about guns," it is about allowing any use of deadly force if necessary to guard against imminent danger, Hoffman said.

The bill, approved by the House last year, also would require Minnesota to recognize firearms permits from other states and would prevent law enforcement from confiscating weapons during governor-declared states of emergency like Hoffman said occurred after Hurricane Katrina.

House members will review bill again. If approved, it will go to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. He has not said whether he will sign the bill, but said he usually sides with police officers, who generally oppose the measure.


Four Democrats joined Republicans who control the Legislature in supporting the bill.

Minnesota already has the so-called "Castle Doctrine," allowing people to use force to defend their homes. But it is not enough, bill proponents argued.

"Current law favors the criminal. With the duty to retreat, you put the onus on the victim," Hoffman said. "We need to empower people to protect themselves."

"Federal reports show much of major crime is happening outside the house," added Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, a former Douglas County sheriff.

Supporters also said the bill better protects constitutional rights.

"If we're going to have a Second Amendment, let's make it meaningful," Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said, referring to the federal right to bear arms.

Opponents argued current law is sufficient to protect people acting in self-defense and warned the bill could provide too much leeway.

"What this bill does is promote vigilante justice," Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, said. "This is a completely new expansion of Castle Doctrine."


Others were worried about the mentality it would create.

"This says killing people shouldn't be a last resort," Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, a former St. Paul police officer and chief, said.

Hoffman noted it still would be up to the courts to determine if a person acted reasonably.

A number of state law enforcement and county attorney organizations opposed the bill.

Dave Kolb, Champlin police chief representing the Minnesota State Chiefs of Police Association, said Thursday the legislation would make law enforcement work more dangerous and could make it easier to defend murder.

"I don't think that's the intention of the bill, but that's the loophole it creates," he said.

Hoffman said law enforcement officials are still protected by current law and under the bill. The proposal includes language that a person cannot use force against someone they "know or reasonably should know" is a peace officer.



Here is how area senators voted Thursday to expand Minnesotans' right to self defense:

Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, no

John Carlson, R-Bemidji, yes

Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, yes

Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, yes

Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, yes

John Howe, R-Red Wing, yes

Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, yes


Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, not voting

Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, no

Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, yes

Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, no

Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, yes

Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, yes

Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, no

Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, yes


Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, no

Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, yes

LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, not voting

Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, yes

Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, yes

Danielle Nordine reports for Forum Communications Co.

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