Bill would allow active duty military members to carry a weapon in Minnesota

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Republican lawmakers announced plans to introduce a bill in the 2016 Legislature that would allow Minnesota National Guard members to carry a weapon.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Monday that military personnel should have more tools of self-protection, citing an uptick in violence against service members as of late, the Star Tribune reports.

The debate over arming service members heated up after a gunman killed four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor at two Chattanooga military facilities. The shooter, 24-year-old Muhammed Youssef Abdulazeez, was killed by police. His motives remain unclear, although authorities are treating it as domestic terrorism.

Under current Minnesota law, active duty troops are not allowed to have weapons in civilian areas, like recruiting centers, FOX 9 reports. And on Monday, some Republican lawmakers announced plans for a bill that would allow service members to be exempt from the state’s gun permitting process, so they wouldn't be required to obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed firearm, the Pioneer Press says.

The bill is expected to be introduced in the 2016 Legislature, which convenes in March 8, 2016, reports note.

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This announcement comes after the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee launched an online petition calling on Gov. Mark Dayton to allow active military members to carry their weapons in public. The petition said, "Minnesota National Guard members should have the right to be armed while on duty to ensure their safety and security," and asks those who agree to sign their names.

Last week, the Star Tribune reported Gov. Dayton said he won’t order any immediate upgrades to security at Minnesota National Guard recruiting stations following the Chattanooga shootings.

Wisconsin allows its National Guard personnel to carry firearms while on duty. Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order authorizing the action.

The governor’s order directed Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, who oversees the Wisconsin National Guard, to arm guard personnel “as reasonably necessary.” Dunbar then ordered the posting of armed guardsmen at the guard’s four storefront recruiting stations in Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee.

Walker’s order does not affect non-Wisconsin National Guard military offices in the state, which are federally run.

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