Opinion editor's note: This editorial has been updated to clarify that the city of St. Paul has a policy that prohibits its employees from carrying guns while on the job.
Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Following a horrific shooting outside a St. Paul recreation center, Mayor Melvin Carter wants the city to be able to ban firearms in public places. His administration is rightly working with Ramsey County officials and St. Paul's legislative delegation to introduce a bill that would give all Minnesota cities the power to prohibit guns at libraries and rec centers.
As long as Minnesota gives permitted gun owners the right to conceal and carry, public entities such as cities and counties — as well as the State Capitol — should be able to keep firearms off their premises. Guns already are banned on school properties in the state.
The call for a ban follows a Jan. 18 shooting at the Oxford Community Center, which includes the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center. According to a criminal complaint, a center employee, 26-year-old Exavir Dwayne Binford Jr., was in a fight with a group of teens before shooting and critically injuring one of them. Binford has been charged with second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault and has been fired by the city.
Carter pointed out that under state law all nonpublic places such as businesses, churches and nonprofits can ban firearms from their premises. If the state doesn't change laws covering public spaces, he said the city will mount a court challenge. The city already has a policy that prohibits employees from carrying guns while on the job.
The Oxford shooting was "horrifying and tragic," Carter said, in part because parents and families look to rec centers, parks and libraries as safe places for their children. He used the centers growing up in St. Paul, and his two teenagers are involved in sports at Jimmy Lee. The mayor said he's doing an audit of the practices and policies at the center and seeking state law changes to leave "no stone unturned" to make sure that centers for youth are sacred, safe spaces.
Banning guns in public spaces is only one of several needed reforms, Carter added. As the Star Tribune Editorial Board also has argued, Carter said the Legislature should pass universal background checks and so-called red-flag laws. Those provisions allow law enforcement, and in some cases a family member, to petition a judge to restrict a person's ability to have firearms if they pose a risk to themselves or others.
Last week, Gov. Tim Walz reiterated his support for sensible gun laws. He told reporters that the Legislature would "finally tackle this issue of common-sense gun things — making sure families have access to red-flag laws, making sure we're doing serious background checks."
It's a near certainty that banning guns in public places would face a court challenge. The Minnesota State Fair prevailed in court last year to ban guns during its 10-day gathering, in part due to its quasi-public status. But guns are currently allowed at the State Capitol and other public spaces throughout the state.
The pro-gun lobby, which successfully pushed for Minnesota to become a conceal-carry state, fights most gun laws and related reforms. Even as the governor was urging reforms, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus held its annual lobby day at the Capitol to object.
Still, according to most opinion polls, a majority of the public supports these reasonable measures. The Legislature should approve them, too.