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Arneson’s view on guns for prosecutors

December 22, 2011
The Journal

To the editor:

Re: Monday editorial about prosecutors carrying firearms.

I am not advocating that prosecutors carry guns. I just think that prosecutors should not be prohibited from carrying if they face a safety threat. A state statute prohibits prosecutors employed by a county or city from carrying "while on duty," even it they face a safety threat. The statutory prohibition applies to local prosecutors, but not other attorneys. To me the statutory prohibition was just an annoyance, until an alleged drug dealer allegedly tried to hire a hit man to kill one of my assistant county attorneys.

Some people think that prosecutors should carry a firearm all the time, like cops. Some people think that nobody should ever carry, unless they are cops. My view, for me personally, is that I don't plan to carry, unless I think there is a safety threat. If I get a call today that somebody I prosecuted has been released from prison and has told people he is coming to kill me, I would want the authority to carry until the threat has expired. I can't do that now, while on duty. If the Lake Crystal city attorney gets a call today that somebody he has prosecuted has been released from jail and that defendant has told people he was going to kill the city attorney, the city attorney could carry (provided he has a permit). The Lake Crystal city attorney can carry, because he is an independent contractor, not an employee of the city. That doesn't make much sense to me.

If the prohibition was lifted, in order to carry, county attorneys and their assistants would have to go through a permit to carry class and get a permit from the sheriff, just like anybody else. In Mankato they would also need written permission from the sheriff or chief of police if they wanted to carry in a courthouse complex, just like anybody else. (There is a standing "Administrative Order", issued on May 23, 2003, by the chief judge of the fifth judicial district, and applicable to all courthouse complexes in the fifth judicial district, that states in order to possess a firearm in a courthouse complex, they would have to get written permission from the chief of police or sheriff.) If a county attorney or assistant county attorney was to ask permission of the chief of police or sheriff to carry in a courthouse complex the sheriff or chief of police could say "no" , say "yes", say "yes" but with restrictions, or even require additional training first.

I was at a county board meeting Tuesday morning. Those meetings are not held in the courthouse. A reporter for the local newspaper attends those meetings. He is not prohibited from carrying a gun at the meeting, so why should I be?

Ross Arneson

Blue Earth County Attorney



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