The scourge of gun violence has not left the quad communities untouched. Nor has it gone unnoticed.
Shootings in Golden Valley and Robbinsdale earlier this year, while rare, heightened concerns about safety, accompanied by more frequent firearm incidents in bordering communities like the north side of Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center.
The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion garnered the most attention from the high court’s splurge of decisions at the end June. However, a ruling one day earlier by the justices in the nation’s capital may have even more impact than the abortion case in Minnesota, the quad communities, and surrounding area.
The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, struck a target aimed for by Second Amendment “right to bear arms” advocates for years. The Court invalidated, by a 6-3 vote, a late 19th century New York law requiring a gun owner to show “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry a firearm outside the home for “self-defense” purposes.
Authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the decision deemed the law violative of the Second Amendment because it did not conform to the “historical tradition” of gun regulations in this country, overlooking that the New York law had been in effect, without challenge, for more than a century. That’s quite a long “historical tradition” that the majority of justices chose to disregard.
While most gun safety advocates are chafing at the outcome of the case, they recognize that they must live with it; some fear many will die because of it.
Pointing to the growing rise in firearm violence, they note that the New York decision came in the wake of the shootings of ten Black shoppers in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, followed by the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and preceding the July 4 slaying outside of Chicago of seven parade watchers and injuring dozens of others.
While the abortion decision is certainly impactful, Minnesota women have, due to the Minnesota Supreme Court decision in 1995 in Doe v. Gomez, a legally-protected right to abortion under the state constitution. Absent some major changes in the composition of the state court, that right is likely to remain intact in this state.
But the gun case may have even greater effect here in the quads and throughout the state. About a half dozen states have laws similar to the one stricken in New York. Minnesota is not one of them, but it has a comparable one, requiring a permit from local law enforcement authorities for a conceal-carry permit, which “must” be issued by law enforcement authorities to those 21 years or older upon compliance with rather minimal terms of a background check and modest training.
A year ago this month, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the validity of that law in a case entitled State v. Hatch. The tribunal, in a brisk unanimous ruling written by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea reasoned that the state permit protocols were “reasonable” and “narrowly drawn” to withstand a challenge under the well-known “right to bear arms” clause of the Second Amendment. But in shooting down the New York law, the decision by the Supreme Court last month may unlatch Hatch.
The Minnesota law has different language than the one invalidated in the New York case. But the rationale of the ruling by Justice Thomas in that case could form the basis to overturn the Hatch decision last summer.
If so, the impact will be felt here in the quads, where the surge in gun shootings and crime in general are emerging as major issues for the November elections.
Two of the area’s DFL legislators are among the leaders pressing for stronger gun safety measures in the state, bolstering the new lukewarm federal compromise legislation enacted after the recent spate of shootings.
State Sen. Ron Latz has been instrumental in developing “red flag” and expanded background check measures and State Rep. Ryan Winkler has helped push the legislation through the DFL-controlled House of Representatives. But its fate is uncertain in the upcoming legislative session because the Republican-dominated Senate has resisted the measures and Winkler, a chief proponent in the House, is stepping down after seeking to fill the vacancy in the county attorney’s office. Which party controls the legislative chambers and the Governor’s office after November will go a long way in determining how those measures will fare in the future.
It’s an extremely inopportune time for any rise in gun violence. But it’s among the top items on the agenda for law enforcement personnel in the quad communities, including Golden Valley’s new police chief Virgil Green and his revamped command structure.
How this will all play out remains to be seen, but it is likely that the quad communities and surrounding environs could be in the bullseyes of a potential proliferation of guns and related firearm offenses flowing from this summer’s Supreme Court’s decision.