On December 30, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas, a gunman walked into a church and opened fire, killing two people. Seconds after the shooting began, the church’s head of security fatally shot the gunman and the incident was over. The shooting raised questions about the intersection of the law between the right to carry, the right for private establishments to allow or prohibit firearms, and self-defense claims. Just as individual people disagree on gun rights, so do entire states.
To carry a handgun into a church in Minnesota, you must have a permit to carry that is valid in Minnesota and the church must allow handguns on their premises. If you draw your weapon in a place of worship or pull the trigger, there are even more laws to consider.
Distinction Between Types of Firearms
Minnesota makes a distinction between the type of firearm you can carry in any public place. You are not allowed to carry a BB gun, rifle, or shotgun in a public place, including places of worship. If you carried one of those firearms into a place of worship, you would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. If you are under the age of twenty-one and carried a semiautomatic military-style assault weapon into a place of worship, you would be guilty of a felony. See Min. Stat. § 624.7181.
Do You Have a Permit to Carry?
A person who carries, holds, or possesses a handgun without first obtaining a permit to carry the handgun is guilty of a gross misdemeanor for a first offense. You must have a permit to carry to legally possess a handgun in Minnesota. See Minn. Stat. § 624.714.
Is Your Permit Valid in Minnesota?
If you have a permit to carry a handgun from a state other than Minnesota, you must check first to see if that permit is valid in MN. Under Minnesota law, the Department of Public Safety is required to publish a list of states which have handgun carry permit laws that are not similar to Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law. See Minn. Stat. § 624.714.16. No license or permit from another state is valid in Minnesota if the holder is or becomes prohibited by law from possessing a firearm.
Click here to see which out of state permits are valid in Minnesota.
Does the Establishment Allow Guns on the Premises?
Minnesota law allows private establishments, including churches and places of worship, to choose whether to allow or prohibit people from bringing guns into their premises. Establishments which choose to prohibit firearms must either post conspicuous signs at every entrance to the establishment informing those who enter that guns are not allowed on the premises or personally inform individuals entering the establishment that guns are prohibited in the premises and demand compliance. See Min. Stat. § 624.714.17.
If you have a permit to carry a handgun that is valid in Minnesota and carry that handgun onto the premises of a church (or other private establishment) which prohibits handguns, you are guilty of a petty misdemeanor and will be fined up to $300.
If You enter the church and pull the trigger?
While there are many different crimes a person could face, if someone recklessly discharges a firearm in a municipality that person could face a felony charge. Minn. Stat. § 609.66.1a(3).
If You Pull the Trigger and Hit Someone?
If you shoot another person, you could be facing a wide variety of charges anywhere from assault to murder. The circumstances of the case would determine the severity of the charges and penalties.
Self Defense Claim
Unlike Texas, which is a “Stand Your Ground” state, Minnesota law imposes a duty to retreat. This means if a person feels threatened, he may only use force as a last resort. The intentional taking of the life of another is not authorized except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death. A jury decides whether an actor’s use of force is justifiable and satisfies the requirements of Minnesota’s self-defense laws.