Archived Story

Sheriff weighs in on gun laws

Published 10:42am Thursday, February 28, 2013


Some Minnesota residents are concerned that proposed tougher gun laws may restrict their rights to purchase guns. While Brian Schlueter, Sheriff of Otter Tail County, says it’s tough to forsee where all of the legislation will end up, he strongly supports the Constitution, including a citizen’s right to bear arms.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, Congress is reviewing several bills regarding banning assault weapons, toughening penalties for illegal trafficking of guns, increasing federal grants for school safety programs, and requiring federal background checks for gun purchases.

Minnesota is also reviewing a slew of gun control proposals, with bills proposed in the State Legislature to make it harder for criminals to get guns and giving law enforcement more control over weapons permits.

Some gun enthusiasts are worried about potential new gun laws that will make it hard to purchase certain guns, such as the kind of weaponry used at Sandy Hook. The possibility of gun restrictions has increased gun sales and permit applications in Otter Tail County.

In 2011, there were 761 gun carry and gun purchase permits issued in Otter Tail County. In 2012 there were 1,052. While permit numbers can fluctuate depending on when existing permits are renewed, officials acknowledge they are seeing an increase in applications and permits being issued.

“I’m not looking for a reason to deny people a gun permit,” said Brian Schlueter, Sheriff of Otter Tail County. “I’m a strong second amendment supporter of the people’s right to own and carry a firearm. But if there is a reason, we will deny it.”

A bill by state Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, would make it easier for law enforcement to deny firearms permits based on the likelihood of the applicant being a danger to themselves or the public.

Local law enforcement says better information on applicants would be a benefit in some instances.

“There is a lack of available data on a person’s mental illness history and that could be improved,” said Schlueter. “But currently, if we have information that a person is a danger to the public or themselves, we can use that as a basis for denial.”

Schlueter adds that if a person is known to the department through criminal activity, they can use that information in determining whether to issue a gun permit.

Golden Lakes Pawn in Fergus Falls reported an increase in sales of semiautomatic rifles in December. Neigel Firearms owner Jim Neigel said this has been a trend throughout the industry. According to Neigel, every time something like the elementary school massacre happens, people get scared their rights to purchase weapons will be taken away.

Schlueter said he doesn’t think semi-automatic weapons should be banned.

“What if the terrorist’s weapon of choice was a shotgun — would people support taking away hunting shotguns?” said Schlueter. “In my opinion, a shot gun is equally as dangerous as an AR 15 semi-automatic rifle.”

A gun show in Mankato was flooded with people looking to buy guns last weekend, including Bruce Francis of Owatonna. He sees the potential for a couple of new restrictions to turn into something else.

“I think it’s just a stepping stone — to taking our guns away,” said Francis.

Another Minnesota bill introduced is intended to create a system where people who might be struggling with mental illness or other issues can surrender their firearms and be on a list to be prohibited from buying guns for a pre-set period of time. However, it would be up to local authorities to store the weapons.

“I would be totally against that,” said Schlueter. “We don’t have the manpower or space for that.”

Gun rights and gun control advocates generally agree that something can be done about gun violence, though it may take a while to sort out the details.

“It’s not the gun’s fault — there’s no legislation that’s going to prevent evil,” said Schlueter. “Why punish the law abiding citizens.”


  • J Mullins

    How great it would be if every sheriff and police chief would express the same opinions as Sheriff Schleuter has in this venue.
    Unfortunately there are some big city police chiefs and sheriffs whose status is dependent on the leftist dominated city councils and county commissions and radical mayors who appoint them, and must echo the radidly anti 2nd Amendment views of the gun grabbers.
    We are fortunate here in this county to have had a succession of sheriffs who uphold our constitutional rights rather than succumb to the latest hysteria genned up by the left.

  • Richard Olson

    To say a shotgun is “equally as dangerous” as an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, is absolutely ludicrous on it face. If that were true, the armed forces of every nation would carry shotguns.

  • DustyCross

    Think, Dick. Give it a try. It may not suit you at first but at least you would have a better grasp of main-stream reason. If you are a homeowner: would you rather have a shotgun with a 12″ spread of defense – or an AR-15 with a .223″ area of defense. Clang, clang, clang. Don’t you ever get tired of hearing the emptiness of your diatribes. I pity the man that has nothing better to do than spew his venom on the likes of the Fergus Falls Journal website. Your responses became tiresome long before the issues were brought to print. Why don’t you try scrap-booking, Dick. I think you would be a better person if you scrap-booked.

  • Richard Olson

    Martin Draves, if your comment is an example of “main-stream reason”, you should stand on the stream bank until you learn to swim. Here’s the Sheriffs comment….

    “What if the terrorist’s weapon of choice was a shotgun — would people support taking away hunting shotguns?” said Schlueter. “In my opinion, a shot gun is equally as dangerous as an AR 15 semi-automatic rifle.”

    That’s the comment I was responding to, (a terrorists choice) not some pretend scenario about home defense. But hey, in your home feel free to use a shot gun with a wide blast pattern rather than a selective surgical approach which wounds just the person you are aiming at rather then the intruder and perhaps family members standing too close.

    While you’re mulling those choices over you might just consider responding to the instant subject matter rather than making me the issue because you have no argument regarding gun safety other than what you learned from video games. I would recommend “scrap-booking” to you, but it’s difficult while bouncing off walls.

  • J. Anderson

    Hey DICK, How about using your brain for a minute and stop flapping your soup cooler. ANYBODY, except for you, can see that the chance of surviving a .223 round versus a shotgun round is probably around 100 times greater. The .223 round was developed for the military not because it is more lethal but just the opposite. The are designed to wound because by wounding 1 soldier you take 2 out of the fight. It must be irresistable for you to stick your foot in your mouth every time you open it.

    • Richard Olson

      Well Jeff, thanks for that informative lesson in ballistics. Now let me tell you what I learned in three tours in Vietnam. I’ll talk about effect, not design. Depending on location the exit hole from an M-16 can be thousands of time greater than the entrance hole. I’ve seen people shot once in the chest and have most of their back removed. Even if that weren’t the case the number of shots or rounds available in an M-16 is at least 20 and perhaps up to 100 with a drum. Versus five or six (with the plug removed) from a semi-auto shot gun. (perhaps you’d like to argue distance next)

      But once again, in the privacy of your own home feel free to use a shotgun or hand grenade for all I care. My point was/is that a shotgun is not more deadly than an M-16. I also understand that my personal experience weighs nothing when compared to feigned outrage of video game experts on the internet. Or gun enablers who feel their world of effortless comfortable enjoyment of their hobby slipping away day by day.

  • Walt Henry

    What was a statistic released last week? Since 2003 there have been exactly 5 uses of justified gunshots in home/personal protection cases in Minnesota. That said I think a shot gun is more effective in the case of a home invasion than anything else; close range-wide pattern. It is difficult for me to think I would feel threatened by someone a 100 or more yards away.
    Where I would like to see gun laws take us is to hold gun owners responsible for the effects of their guns, myself included. Too many careless gun owners allow their guns to be stolen or misused by “friends” including children. I know the mother in Newtown paid the ultimate price for her carelessness and wouldn’t suggest that strong a penalty but some form of punishment for carelessness might be an effective and needed deterrent.

    • jubert122

      Sounds like some people are legends in their own minds.Inspiring!

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  • Dan

    In the last sentence the sheriff said it not the gun fault. I heard that said so much that it sicken. They say the same thing about the car but they maked you have license and ins. It could be done at the same time.

  • BillSchulz

    Sheriff Schleuter deserves credit for knowing that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms denotes a RIGHT which can only be denied by changing the constitution, not by tinkering with laws in knee jerk response to rare occurences such as Newtown.
    Recent FBI statistics show that of almost 9,000 homicides committed in the U.S., about 370 were committed with ANY kind of rifle, and less than 60 with what the gungrabbing socialists mistakenly call “assault rifles”. Under their definition even a Ruger 10/22 would be outlawed as an assault rifle. And that rifle is probably the most commonly held target and varmint gun in the country.
    Those same stats from the FBI show that about three times as many people were murdered with fists and feet, and five times as many with knives and other sharp weapons than with any type rifle. Should we use the knives to amputate everybody’s hands and feet before melting down all knives in the country, as it is obvious that they are lethal weapons?

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