The Minnesota Legislature has adopted several firearms preemption statutes. Section 471.633 of Minnesota Statutes Annotated provides as follows:
“The legislature preempts all authority of a home rule charter or statutory city including a city of the first class, county, town, municipal corporation, or other governmental subdivision, or any of their instrumentalities, to regulate firearms, ammunition, or their respective components to the complete exclusion of any order, ordinance or regulation by them.”
Other provisions of Minnesota law expressly preempt all municipal and county regulation of:
- The transfer of handguns1
- The ownership, possession, or operation of machine guns, trigger activators, machine gun conversion kits, or short-barreled shotguns2
- The issuance of “transferee permits” allowing the holder to purchase handguns and semi-automatic military-style weapons3
- The issuance, nature, and scope of permits to carry handguns4
- The carrying and possession of handguns, and the regulation of Saturday night special pistols”5
- Anything related to ammunition or its component parts6
The Minnesota legislature has provided limited exceptions to its broad preemption of local firearms regulation. Local governments may regulate:
- The discharge of firearms7
- In ways identical to state law8
- The location of businesses where guns are sold by a federally licensed firearms dealer if the regulations are reasonable, nondiscriminatory and nonarbitrary zoning ordinances9
- Secondhand and junk dealers, although this authority is granted only to counties10
In addition, Minnesota law excludes school districts from the definition of governmental subdivisions that are preempted from regulating firearms. Section 471.634 provides that school districts may regulate firearms as they relate to school grounds, facilities, transportation services, programs, or the conduct of students at any school activities. A school district may not, however, regulate the possession or carrying of firearms or ammunition by non-students or non-employees, in a manner that is inconsistent with a statute that generally prohibits possessing, storing, or keeping a firearm while knowingly on school property.11
Finally, local units of government may regulate the use of firearms on state trails more restrictively than regulations provided by state rules.12
In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota rejected a preemption challenge to a school district’s expulsion policy for possession of a dangerous weapon on school property. In In re Expulsion of M.A.L.,13 the expelled student argued that the school district’s expulsion policy was preempted by Minnesota Statutes section 609.66, which makes possession of a dangerous weapon on school property a felony. The student argued that, even though school districts are expressly exempted from the firearm preemption statute, the later enactment of section 609.66 impliedly repealed the exemption and preempted school districts from regulating the possession of a weapon on school property.
The court determined that the school district’s expulsion policy was not impliedly preempted by state law. Applying a four-part test first set out by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Mangold Midwest Co. v. Richfield,14 the M.A.L. court found 1) that the subject matter to be regulated, possession of a dangerous weapon on school property 2) was not so fully covered as to render it solely a matter of state concern, 3) that the partial regulation of the subject matter did not imply that the legislature intended to eliminate the school district’s ability to further regulate the subject matter, and 4) that the school district’s regulation of the subject matter did not adversely affect the general population.15
The court also held that the state law providing the right to carry a properly stored gun in a motor vehicle, even on school property, without being subject to criminal punishment did not conflict with and therefore did not preempt the school’s expulsion policy because the statute does not permit a student to avoid the school disciplinary process and the school policy does not permit the school to initiate criminal proceedings.16
Other Statutory Provisions
During a state of emergency, government officials may not:
- Prohibit, regulate, or curtail the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, transfer, defensive use, or other lawful use of any firearms, ammunition, components or accessories
- Seize, commandeer, or confiscate any of these items (With limited exceptions)
- Suspend or revoke a valid permit to carry a handgun
- Close or limit the operating hours of businesses that lawfully sell or service any of these items, unless such closing or limitation of hours applies equally to all forms of commerce17
Minnesota law specifies the authority of local units of government to regulate shooting ranges. A shooting range that operates in compliance with the state’s shooting range performance standards must be permitted to do all of the following:
- Operate the range and conduct activities involving the discharge of firearms
- Expand or increase its membership or opportunities for public participation related to the primary activity as a shooting range
- Make those repairs or improvements desirable to meet or exceed requirements of shooting range performance standards
- Increase events and activities related to the primary activity as a shooting range;
- Acquire additional lands to be used for buffer zones or noise mitigation efforts or to otherwise comply with this chapter
- Conduct shooting activities and discharge firearms daily between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.18
A local unit of government with zoning jurisdiction over a shooting range may extend the allowable hours of operation by the issuance of a special or conditional use permit.19 Furthermore, nothing shall supersede more restrictive regulation of days and hours of operation imposed by the terms and conditions of ordinances and permits that are in effect on May 28, 2005.20
A shooting range that is a nonconforming use shall be allowed to conduct additional shooting activities within the range’s lawful property boundaries as of the date the range became a nonconforming use, provided that the range remains in compliance with the state’s noise restrictions21 and shooting range performance standards.22
To the extent consistent with certain immunity provisions, a local unit of government with zoning authority jurisdiction over a shooting range may enforce its applicable ordinances and permits.23
For state laws prohibiting certain types of lawsuits against shooting ranges, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Minnesota.
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- Minn. Stat. § 624.7132, subd. 16.
- Minn. Stat. § 609.67, subd. 6.
- Minn. Stat. § 624.7131, subd. 12.
- Minn. Stat. § 624.714, subd. 23.
- Minn. Stat. § 624.717. The Court of Appeals of Minnesota held that a city policy imposing requirements for a handgun permit in addition to the criteria set out in section 624.715, subdivision 5, violated the statutory directive of section 624.717. In re Application of Hoffman, 430 N.W. 2d 210, 213 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988).
- Minn. Stat. § 624.7191, subd. 4.
- Minn. Stat. § 471.633(a).
- Minn. Stat. § 471.633(b).
- Minn. Stat. § 471.635.
- Minn. Stat. § 471.924(1). Secondhand and “junk” dealers are persons engaged in the business of buying secondhand goods, including guns, but excluding used goods taken as part or full payment for new goods. Minn. Stat. § 471.925.
- Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(g).
- Minn. R. 6100.4100.
- In re Expulsion of M.A.L., 2002 Minn. App. LEXIS 1292, 2002 WL 31655343 (Minn. Ct. App. November 20, 2002).
- 274 Minn. 347, 356 (1966).
- In re Expulsion of M.A.L., 2002 Minn. App. LEXIS 1292, *5-*8.
- Id. at *8-*9.
- Minn. Stat. § 624.7192(c).
- Minn. Stat. § 87A.03, subd. 1(1) – (6).
- Minn. Stat. § 87A.03, subd. 1(5).
- Minn. Stat. § 87A.08, subd. 1(a).
- Minn. Stat. § 87A.05.
- Minn. Stat. § 87A.03, subd. 2.
- Minn. Stat. § 87A.08, subd. 1(a).