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Minnesota Gun Control Laws

Gun control remains a controversial topic in the daily news feed. At one end is the right for citizens to bear arms for traditional reasons like self-defense, while at the other is the challenge to public safety when governments appear helpless to end mass shootings throughout the nation. In recent years, there has been little agreement at the federal level on gun laws. In Minnesota and other states, striking a reasonable balance often falls to state legislators and officials.

Federal Law

Federal law begins with a review of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and its interpretation by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Second Amendment states:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to possess or own a gun for self-defense. More recently, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022), the Court ruled that this right extends to arming oneself in public. These decisions altered the landscape of the litigation of gun rights in America. 

As a result, any state regulation today may face a challenge in court. Courts will assess whether the law in question aligns with a traditional framework for firearms regulation in U.S. history.

Congress has faced conflict over gun rights and gun control for some time, so changes in federal firearms law are rare. Under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), the federal government regulates interstate commerce in firearms. It requires those who manufacture, sell, or import firearms as their business to obtain a federal firearms license. Private sellers who don't engage in firearm sales for profit like a business fall outside the regulation scheme. 

Federal law bans citizens from owning machine guns. It also sets forth categories of persons prohibited from possession of a firearm, such as felons and those convicted of domestic violence. The GCA bars a firearm dealer from selling shotguns and rifles (long guns) to those under 18 years of age and handguns to those under 21 years of age. Under its Brady Act amendments, it set up the National Background Check System (NICS) and a minimum waiting period to allow background checks to occur.

State Law

Federal law provides a baseline for firearm regulation. It provides a floor that states cannot go below. Typically, state gun laws provide additional regulations that balance protecting the public from gun violence with the rights of gun owners. This can appear in state-issued waiting periods, registration requirements, concealed carry permitting, and further prohibitions on who may own, possess, or use a firearm.

Minnesota Gun Control Laws

Minnesota gun laws do not require the registration of firearms. A citizen can purchase traditional rifles and shotguns without a permit. Purchase of a handgun, however, requires a valid permit that will include a criminal background check. Likewise, the purchase or transfer of a pistol or a semi-automatic military-style assault weapon will require completing a purchase/transfer permit. 

Applicants for a gun permit in Minnesota must undergo a criminal background check through the Minnesota Crime Information System and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS. Those seeking to purchase a firearm may seek a permit from their local police chief or county sheriff.

Minnesota also requires a gun permit to carry a gun in public. A permit to carry constitutes a permit to purchase as well, so you do not have to seek two permits in that circumstance. Minnesota's regulatory scheme makes it a "shall issue" state. This means that the state has objective criteria for eligibility. If a person meets the criteria, then the government shall issue the permit. Issuance does not occur at the subjective discretion of the police chief or sheriff. 

In general, you need a permit to carry a firearm in a motor vehicle and must transport it unloaded and under safe storage regulations.

There are some situations where a permit to carry is not required, such as:

  • To keep or carry about the place of business, home, premises, or on land one controls
  • To carry a pistol from the purchase point to one's home, or business, or for repairs
  • To carry a pistol between one's home and place of business
  • To carry a pistol in the woods, fields, or upon the waters for hunting or target shooting in a safe area
  • To transport a pistol in a motor vehicle, snowmobile, or boat if it is unloaded and properly secured

Minnesota law also sets out prohibited locations for firearms in certain public places and in private locations where the owner has posted clear signs or personally notified the gun possessor. These locations may be off limits whether engaged in concealed carry or open carry.

The law bans possession of a firearm on school property. School property includes any public or private elementary, middle, or secondary school campus, a school bus that is transporting school children, or a childcare center when children are present.

Minnesota also has a state preemption law that works to restrict local governments from passing firearm regulations that conflict with state law on the same issue.

For more detailed information on Minnesota gun control laws, please review the chart below.

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

Minnesota's gun control laws can be found in Minnesota Statutes:

Illegal Arms

The following firearms and devices are illegal to possess, with the exception of law enforcement officers and members of the Armed Forces:

  • Machine guns or machine gun conversion kits
  • Short-barreled shotguns
  • Trigger activators
Minnesota also bans the possession or use of:
  • Spring guns
  • Saturday Night Special pistols
  • Swivel guns and set guns (deer hunting)

Waiting Period

There is a 30-day waiting period for handguns and military-style assault weapons. The police chief or sheriff can waive any portion of the waiting period in situations where they determine the applicant is not disqualified before the expiration of the time period or that access is required sooner due to a threat to the life of the applicant or any family members in their household.

Who May Not Possess Firearms

  • Minors, but federal and state regulations may provide limited exceptions like under parental supervision, and as of 2024 there is pending legislation challenging this
  • Persons subject to an extreme risk protection order (red flag law)
  • Persons prohibited under federal law (See 18 U.S.C. Section 922g)
  • A person convicted of domestic assault with a firearm, stalking, and certain other crimes
  • A person with a protection order for domestic violence or domestic child abuse
  • A person convicted of a crime of violence, including juvenile adjudications and those in diversion programs, unless the case is now dismissed
  • A person convicted of certain misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors set forth in the statute in the last three years, including domestic assault against a family or household member
  • A person who is or has ever been committed by judicial determination to be mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or mentally ill and dangerous to the public, to a treatment facility, or found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental illness and not restored
  • A person convicted for unlawful use, possession, or sale of a controlled substance, with exceptions for certain marijuana use for those 21 or over
  • A person who's been committed for treatment for habitual use of a controlled substance or marijuana or for being chemically dependent and rights have not been restored
  • A peace officer who is informally admitted to a treatment facility for chemical dependency unless they receive a certificate for discharge
  • A person who is an alien, illegally or unlawfully in the U.S.
  • A person who has renounced U.S. citizenship
  • A person who was dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
  • A person who is a fugitive from justice
  • A person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by over one year in prison

License Required?

Minnesota does not require a license. It requires a permit to purchase a handgun or a semi-automatic military-style assault weapon.

Concealed Carry License Required?

Yes. If you have a permit to carry, you can carry certain concealed firearms in Minnesota. A permit to carry also acts as a permit to purchase.

Open Carried Allowed?

Yes. However, you need a Minnesota carry permit or a carry permit from a state Minnesota recognizes. There are also restrictions on locations where a person can carry, either concealed or open.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry Permit

To qualify for a permit to carry, you must:

  • Be at least 21 years old (Note: as of 2024, legislation is pending on this subject)
  • Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident
  • Have firearms training in the safe use of pistols
  • Cannot fall under a prohibition for possessing a firearm under Minn. Statute 624.714 (see above prohibitions)
  • Cannot be listed in the criminal gang investigation system

Machine Gun Laws

Owning, possessing, or operating a machine gun, trigger activator, or machine gun conversion kit is illegal in Minnesota. Exceptions apply for law enforcement, members of the Armed Services of the U.S. and State of Minnesota, the chief executive officers of correctional facilities, and limited others.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

  • Possession of a suppressor (silencer) not lawful under federal law is punishable by two to five years in prison; a fine of $5,000-$10,000; or both.
  • Furnishing a firearm to a minor (under 18) without parental consent is punishable by up to 10 years in prison; a fine of up to $20,000; or both.
  • Illegal ownership, possession, or operation of a machine gun, trigger activator, or machine gun conversion kit is punishable by up to 20 years in prison; a fine of up to $10,000; or both.
  • Illegal possession of certain firearms or ammunition when ineligible by law can be a gross misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific circumstances involved. When the ineligibility is due to a prior crime of violence, punishment can be up to 15 years in prison; a fine up to $30,000; or both.
  • Illegal transfer of a pistol or semi-automatic military-style assault weapon is a gross misdemeanor. It becomes a felony if the transfer is to a person under 18 years old.

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

Illegal possession of a gun on school grounds is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison; a fine of up to $10,000; or both. However, the offense is a misdemeanor if the offender is otherwise authorized to carry a firearm under a valid permit.

Red Flag Law?

Yes. Minnesota enacted a law permitting the issuance of extreme risk protection orders to prevent the purchase or possession of firearms by those at risk for physical harm to themselves or others. It went into effect on January 1, 2024.

Universal Background Checks?

Minnesota provides for near-universal background checks.

Stand Your Ground Law?

No. Minnesota does not have a Stand Your Ground law as part of its self-defense law.

Note: A legal challenge based on the Bruen decision to Minnesota's age restriction limiting the issuance of carry permits only to those 21 years of age and older is on appeal in the federal courts as of 2024.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts including federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

Minnesota Gun Control Laws: Related Resources

Need More Help Understanding Minnesota's Gun Control Laws?

If you have been charged with a gun-related crime in Minnesota or want to ensure your firearm complies with Minnesota law, it makes sense to seek legal advice. Consider talking with a local criminal defense attorney who understands the gun laws in your state.

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