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ISSUE 117 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/19/2003

Signs shoot up, carrying shot down

By Nick Nelson
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 19, 2003

After a long day on the range, it felt good to be heading back to town. I walked up the front steps of Granny’s Boardin’ House only to hear Granny herself screeching at me from the doorway: “Best leave them six-shooters outside, young fella, else you’ll be feelin’ my rolling pin on your hind-quarters!”

I pinched myself and realized it was only a daydream. There I was, standing outside the front door of Mellby Hall in front of a forbidding sign that informed me that “ST. OLAF COLLEGE BANS GUNS ON THESE PREMISES.” As I read those words, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had left 21st-century Minnesota and was now in the Wild West, where a man was only as safe as his draw was quick.

And yet, as a result of Minnesota’s newly-relaxed firearms legislation, signs banning guns are popping up everywhere, from the Mall of America to our own residence halls. Suddenly I am constantly worrying about guns.

The new statutes allow businesses, churches and colleges to post signs banning guns on their properties. In fact, they prescribe the procedure for such a ban in amazing detail, like the font of the sign’s text must be Arial. No kidding. But wait, it gets worse.

Many of us may not realize that, despite what the signs say, St. Olaf has not legally banned guns … yet. This highlights the most ridiculous aspect of the whole affair: Article 2, Subdivision 17 of Minnesota’s new gun law says that a posted ban is not binding until “the requester or its agent personally informs the gun-carrying person of the posted request and demands compliance.”

In other words, it’s perfectly okay to have a gun in your hall until a college official comes and reminds you that it’s not allowed, just in case you missed the huge signs. Only then has your weapon been officially banned, and at that point, if you refuse to leave your gun in the parking lot (from which St. Olaf cannot ban it), you will face petty misdemeanor charges of around $25.

This is silly. The St. Olaf administration should be allowed to manage their property in the way it judges best. If that means banning guns with signs, it is our state’s responsibility to allow them to do so without requiring them to jump through all these ridiculous hoops.

Besides, there are very few reasons left for civilians to have handguns at all. Many people say that we need guns to protect ourselves against armed criminals, and there are many “bad guys” out there with guns. But if the NRA, for instance, would devote even part of its influence to the disarmament of our nation’s criminals, you can bet it would happen pretty fast. We all agree that the bad guys shouldn’t be armed. Why don’t we take away their guns, instead of buying our own?

Let’s face it: guns are made to shoot things. Handguns, in particular, are designed to shoot people. Anyone who thinks that a free people need to be capable of shooting each other in order to live in peace must have missed some important lessons in kindergarten. In many ways, the recent relaxation of Minnesota’s gun laws is a step in the wrong direction.

Amidst these strong and valid arguments, it is easy to lose sight of some important realities. Our state legislature is not its own master in this matter. We are a nation of laws, and our highest law unequivocally protects the right to bear arms. No amount of wishful thinking or judicial squirming will make that constitutional reality go away.

The Second Amendment does not say that Americans may carry a weapon only if government authorities feel like allowing it. It says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed: plain and simple. Whether we like it or not, those are the rules the legislature has to play by, and they are not negotiable except through calling a constitutional convention. Minnesota’s new law, aside from the silly procedures for banning guns, reflects that unfortunate reality much better than the previous, more restrictive regulations.

It’s a wonderful thing to live in a nation of laws, but times change, and laws need to change with them. St. Olaf students don’t need handguns, and neither do American civilians. But we can’t look to the state legislature to do something about that – “We the People” have to tackle that job.

The daydream continues: “But Granny,” I protest, “you know I don’t carry a gun!”

“‘A course I know that, sonny,” she answers from the top of the stairs as she turns back to her pies in the oven. “It’s them other fellas who’s got me worried.” Me too. Until we can fix that Constitution of ours, let’s hope Granny Olaf wields a nasty rolling pin.

Staff Writer Nick Nelson is a junior from Owatonna, Minn. He majors in economics and mathematics.

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