- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Republican lawmakers announced a bill in the works on Monday to allow more active duty members of the military and National Guard to carry weapons, the latest of nationwide responses to a deadly shooting at military facilities in Tennessee.

The bill, expected to be introduced during next year’s legislative session, would allow members of the U.S. Armed Forces and Minnesota’s National Guard to carry a weapon without a permit. Law enforcement officers are already exempt from the state’s permitting process.

The GOP politicians also called on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to follow the lead of several other states by issuing an executive order to arm the state’s national guard. After four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor were killed in Chattanooga earlier this month, Sen. Paul Gazelka said they’re necessary changes to better protect those serving the state and country.

“Men and women in uniform simply being attacked because they represent America and stand for America, should have the right and the ability to defend themselves,” said Gazelka, a Nisswa Republican.

In a statement, Dayton deferred to the head of Minnesota’s National Guard, Adjutant General Richard Nash, on “the appropriate measures to best protect the men and women of the Minnesota National Guard.”

For now, that won’t include arming more National Guard soldiers, spokesman Col. Kevin Olson said in a statement.

Minnesota’s National Guard started taking steps to prepare for an attack at its facilities well before Muhammed Youssef Abdulazeez killed five people at a recruiting center and a naval reserve center in Tennessee, Olson said. The guard bolstered security measures in May, ranging from increasing patrols to verifying visitors at the facilities. Its air bases in Duluth and Minneapolis are already guarded by armed officers.

Heather Martens of the gun control advocacy group Protect Minnesota said she agrees military members need to be protected, but exempting them from the permitting process for a weapon - and the background checks that could turn up signs of domestic violence or mental health concerns - isn’t the right route.

“The single most effective thing to do to prevent mass shootings like this is to have a robust background check system where people who are dangerous are prevented from getting a gun in the first place,” she said.


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