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Last reviewed September 2022

Minnesota Issue Guide
Firearm Carry Laws

This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.

Books and Reports   Articles  Additional Library Resources  Groups

In Minnesota, a person may not carry a pistol in a public place unless they are in possession of a "permit to carry." Exceptions to the permit requirement include law enforcement officers and other defined instances (Minnesota Statutes, section 624.714). In 2003, the movement to change the permit application process from "may issue" (discretionary) to "shall issue" succeeded with the passage of Laws of Minnesota 2003, Chapter 28, Article 2. The "shall issue" application process limits the local law enforcement discretion provision and requires the granting of permits to all applicants who meet minimum requirements. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has posted permit to carry information on their website, including information on permit to carry reciprocity.

Efforts to change Minnesota from a "may issue" to a "shall issue" state took place over several years.

During the 2001 Minnesota Legislative Session, Minnesota came close to becoming a "shall issue" state. A "shall issue" bill, HF1360, a "shall issue" bill, passed in the House of Representatives on April 9, 2001. Governor Ventura indicated his support for the House language in local media (see Star Tribune, April 10, 2001). A companion bill in the Senate (SF1395) failed in several committees but the issue was resurrected as a floor amendment to SF1481. However, in the Senate floor debate, the "shall issue" amendment was changed to "discretionary issue" through further amendment. This action caused the "shall issue" sponsor to withdraw the original amendment, ending further action on the issue for the 2001 Session. See the Journal of the Senate for May 15, 2001, beginning on page 3604, for further 2001 Session information regarding SF1481. On February 11, 2002, a motion to take SF1481 from the table, which would revive the bill, failed with a 33 to 33 vote.

During the 2003 Session, there were several firearm carry bills introduced. See the House of Representative's and Senate's Legislation and Bill Status webpages for further information on these bills. In April of 2003, the House of Representatives amended the Department of Natural Resources technical bill, SF842, with the "shall issue" language from HF261. The Senate subsequently passed SF842 as amended and the governor signed the bill into law (Laws of Minnesota 2003, Chapter 28) on April 29, 2003.

On July 13, 2004, Ramsey County District judge John Finley ruled that the 2003 changes to the firearm carry law were unconstitutional. Minnesota's Constitution requires that bills deal with a single subject and the judge ruled that by amending the firearm carry language to a Department of Natural Resources bill, the law violated that requirement. Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch stated that he would appeal Finley's decision. See Ramsey County court decision, Unity v. State of Minnesota.

On January 13, 2005, the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard arguments on the Ramsey County court decision. On April 12, 2005, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision, thereby striking down the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003. See Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, A04-1302.

During the 2005 Session, several firearm carry bills were introduced to address the court decisions regarding the Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act of 2003. In May of 2005, SF2259 was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Governor Pawlenty signed the bill into law (Laws of Minnesota 2005, Chapter 83) on May 24, 2005. This act makes no distinction between "open carry" versus "concealed carry" and persons with a valid permit are allowed to carry using either method.

On September 9, 2005, Hennepin County District Court Judge LaJune Thomas Lange issued a temporary injunction that allowed churches to post signs of their own wording and to completely ban firearms from all church property, including parking lots. This temporary injunction was the initial result of a lawsuit filed by two churches who argued that the firearm carry law interferes with their religious practices. On November 14, 2006, Hennepin County District Court Judge William Howard extended this temporary injunction by making it permanent. On February 5, 2008, the Minnesota State Court of Appeals ruled that churches have the right to ban guns from their property and can decide how to notify people of weapons prohibitions. See: Edina Community Lutheran Church, Respondent, Unity Church of St. Paul, Respondent, vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant. (A07-131).

On February 14, 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that having a loaded handgun in a vehicle’s closed center console while driving meets the definition of “carrying” the firearm under state law. See: State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Christopher Michael Prigge, Respondent. (A17-0403).

On August 4, 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the state's permit to carry requirement was constitutional and did not violate the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. See State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Nathan Ernest Hatch, Respondent. (A20-0176).

In June 2022, the United States Supreme Court ruled on a firearms issue for the first time since they had decided the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case. In the 2022 case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law related to handgun licensure. The law required that individuals who want to carry a handgun in public must first provide evidence of a particular need to defend themselves before they could be issued a license. In light of the ruling, additional litigation in state courts around this issue is expected in coming years. 

On March 31, 2023, U.S. District Judge Katherine Menendez struck down the Minnesota law that barred 18- to 20-year-olds from obtaining permits to carry handguns. This ruling was based on the 2022, case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. See Worth et al v. Harrington et al (21-cv-1348). On April 24, 2023, U.S. District Judge Katherine Menendez issued a stay on the ruling pending appeal.

Additional legislative history materials related to state lawmaking on this issue are available at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. 

Significant Books and Reports

Backhus, Kenneth. Background Check Requirements for Firearm Transfers. St. Paul, MN: Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis, 2022. (KFM5779 .B334 2022)

Backhus, Kenneth. Firearm Possession by Persons with Mental Illness. St. Paul, MN: Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis, 2022. (KFM5779 .B33 2022)

Backhus, Kenneth. Minnesota's Permit to Carry Law. St. Paul, MN: Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis, 2022. (HV8059 .B33 2022)

Branca, Andrew F. The Law of Self Defense. Maynard, MA: Law of Self Defense, 2013. (KF9246.Z9 B73 2013)

Cleary, Jim. The Effects of "Shall-Issue" Concealed-Carry Licensing Laws: A Literature Review. St. Paul, MN: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 1999. (KF3941 .C34 1999)

Cleary, Jim. Firearms Laws in Minnesota: An Overview for Legislators. St. Paul, MN: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2012. (KFM5779 .C55 2012)

Conceal & Carry. Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota State Bar Association, 2003. (KFM5779 .C66 2003)

Cox, Joe. Pistol Posting: Posting at Private Establishments. St. Paul, MN: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2003. (HN79 .M6 S56 2003)

Cramer, Clayton E. Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2012. (HV7436 .C73 2012)

Firearms State Laws and Published Ordinances. Washington, DC: Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 2017/2018. 

Hemenway, David. Private Guns, Public Health. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004. (RD96.3 .H45 2004)

Kopel, David B., Stephen P. Halbrook, Alan Korwin. Supreme Court Gun Cases : Two Centuries of Gun Rights Revealed. Phoenix, AZ: Bloomfield Press, c2004. (KF3941.A7 K67 2004)

Light, Caroline E. Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self-Defense. Boston : Beacon Press, 2017. (KF9246 .L54 2017)

Lott, John R. The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control is Wrong. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Pub.; Lanham, MD: Distributed to the trade by National Book Network, 2003. (HV7436 .L68 2003)

Lott, John R. and David B. Mustard. Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns. Chicago, IL: Law School, University of Chicago, 1996. (HV7436 .L68 1996)

Lott, John R. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. (KF3941 .L68 1998)

Ludwig, Jens, Philip J. Cook, editors. Evaluating Gun Policy: Effects on Crime and Violence. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2003. (HV7436 .E9 2003)

Parker, Kim, et al. America’s complex relationship with guns: an in-depth look at the attitudes and experiences of U.S. adultsPew Research Center, [June 2017]. (HV7436 .P37 2017)

Permit to Carry Report. St. Paul, MN: State of Minnesota, Dept. of Public Safety, 2003-present. (HV8059 .P47)

Report on Information Available for Firearms Background Checks. St. Paul, MN: Criminal and Juvenile Justice Information Policy Group, 2014. (HV8059 .C75 2014)

Rosenberg, Joel. Everything You Need to Know About (Legally) Carrying a Handgun in Minnesota. St. Paul, MN : American Association of Certified Firearms Instructors, 2003. (HV7436 .R67 2003)

Sugarman, Josh. Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns. New York, 2001. (HV7436 .S835 2001)

Summary Data on Permits to Carry Concealed Weapon. St. Paul, MN: Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Department of Public Safety, 2003. (HV 8059 .S86 2003) (Mandated by Laws of Minnesota 2001, 1st Special Session, Chap. 8, Art. 5, Sec. 20).

Unintended Consequences: Pro-Handgun Experts Prove That Handguns Are a Dangerous Choice For Self-Defense. Washington D.C.: Violence Policy Center, 2001. (HV7436 .U55 2001)

Significant Articles

(articles in reverse chronological order)

Montemayor, Stephen. "National Groups Intervene in Federal Suit Over Minnesota's Age Limit for Carrying Handguns." Star Tribune, September 4, 2022. 

Figueroa, Ariana. "U.S. Supreme Court Expands Gun Rights in Striking Down New York Concealed Carry Law." Minnesota Reformer, June 23, 2022. 

"Handguns in Public." Supreme Court Debates, December 2021, vol. 24, issue 9, p. 2+.

"Gun Violence: Have Efforts to Control Firearms Reached a Turning Point?". CQ Researcher, July 27, 2018.

Crotti, Nancy. "Supreme Court: Handgun in Car Console Constitutes 'Carrying'." Minnesota Lawyer, February 26, 2018, p. 1+

Lott Jr., John R. and Gary A. Mauser. "Researcher Perceptions of Lawful, Concealed Carry of Handguns." Regulation: The Cato Review of Business and Government, Summer 2016, p. 26+

Kranz, Steven W. "A Survey of State Conceal and Carry Statutes: Can Small Changes Help Reduce the Controversy?" Hamline Law Review, Summer 2006, vol. 29, no. 3, p. 637+

Schmiesing, Elizabeth H. "The Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act: Reform or Advocacy?" William Mitchell Law Review, 2006, vol. 33, no. 1, p 415+.

Milbert, Melissa M. "Note: The Legislature Should Clean Up Its Act: The Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act, a DNR Technical Bill, and the Single-Subject and Title Clause of the Minnesota Constitution." William Mitchell Law Review, 2005, vol. 31, no. 4, p. 1545-1600.

Nelson, Tim. "Gun Law's Author Hit Right On Target." Pioneer Press, July 6, 2003.

"On to the Senate: Plan to Change Concealed Weapons Permit Policy Pits Personal Protection Against Perceived Safety Risks." Session Weekly, April 25, 2003, vol. 20, no. 16, p. 15.

Additional Library Resources

For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
G50 (Guns & Gun Control), G50.5 (Guns & Gun Control-Laws, Legislation, Constitutionality)

For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Firearm Laws; Firearm Laws (Minnesota).

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