Carry of Long Guns in Minnesota

While there is one statute in Minnesota that clearly states it is legal for anyone with a valid permit to carry loaded long guns (rifles & shotguns) in public, every other reference in MN law refers only to "pistols" - meaning handguns. How should the average person with their concealed carry permit deal with this apparent conflict?

Subdivision 2 of MN statute 624.7181 (Rifles and Shotguns in Public Places) includes the following language:

Whoever carries a BB gun, rifle, or shotgun on or about the person in a public place is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

But there's an exception for permit holders in subdivision 1(b)(3):

"Carry" does not include: the carrying of a BB gun, rifle, or shotgun by a person who has a permit under section 624.714 (the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003 - the law that defines how to legally carry in Minnesota)

Since Minnesota law doesn't make a distinction between open and concealed carry (so long as you have a permit), it seems pretty clear this law allows anyone with a permit to carry - openly or concealed - a loaded rifle or shotgun in Minnesota!

So where's the confusion?

The problems start with the carry law itself. A search of the text shows no references to the words "rifle", "shotgun" or "long gun". To make matters worse, it does refer to "pistols" - meaning any handgun - more than 30 times.

In fact, anyone reading just the carry law would assume that handguns are the only type of gun someone with a permit could carry. Heck, the actual carry permit - the physical card itself - says "Permit to Carry a Pistol" right at the top!

In addition, every other Minnesota statute I've seen that refers to legally carried guns specifically talks about "pistols", with no mention of "rifles" or "shotguns".

What will happen if I carry a long gun?

The short answer is - who knows?

In a perfect world, nothing. What you're doing is explicitly protected by the law, so even if someone calls 911 to report a "person with a gun", responding officers would calmly, professionally confirm you have a permit, would let whoever called know that everything is OK, and that would be the end of it.

Over here in the real world, my recommendation is that you always assume that the "worst case" is going to happen. We all know "worst case" is not likely to happen, but if you've thought about and planned for whatever "worst case" might be, it should be much easier to deal with the situation you are actually facing.

What are the "worst case" scenarios?

The immediate threat comes from the responding officers. Even though you know you have a permit and aren't doing anything wrong or illegal, they don't. They will treat you as a threat to the public and themselves until they're able to confirm you are not. The unfortunate reality - and true worst case scenario - is that, for whatever reason, one or more responding officers could see you as a threat and shoot. The fact you weren't a threat and were acting within the law will be of little comfort to your friends and family at that point.

Remember - I am not saying this will happen, or is anywhere close to common. It's not. But legally armed citizens have been shot & killed by law enforcement in the past, it's the ultimate worst case scenario in this situation, and refusing to acknowledge that fact when deciding whether or not to carry a long gun in public is ... unwise to say the least.

Let's say everything goes well with the responding officers, but you are arrested anyway. Since there isn't currently any case law regarding permit holders carrying long guns in public, there's no way to guarantee a prosecutor won't take your case to trial or that a judge will rule in your favor. You could end up being convicted, in addition to whatever fines and potentially jail time you end up with as well.

Again, I'm not saying this will happen, only that it certainly could and there's no way to know ahead of time what the outcome will be. I'd call a conviction, fines and/or jail time for doing something that appears to me to be well within the law another example of a worst case scenario.

Don't be a test case!

This is one of the more common things you'll hear, along with variations like "Test cases are for other people", when speaking to or getting legal advice from attorneys. And it is good advice. Until the courts have made clear how they view what many see as a conflict between 624.7181 (Rifles and Shotguns in Public Places) and 624.714 (the MN carry law), you are taking a risk by carrying a long gun in public.

Not to mention the potential for overreaction or misinterpretation by the police...

If you choose to take that risk, that is certainly your right and it is clear to me you'd be acting well within the law as it is written. Of course, I'm not a lawyer, I can't give legal advice, and it is highly unlikely I'll be on your jury.

Ultimately, the only thing I can do is give a suggestion based on my opinion. I won't carry a long gun in public because to me, it simply isn't worth the risk of being shot or convicted. I suggest you don't do it either.