We’ve often heard the term, “words matter.” How often have you considered what the phrase really means? Recently, Minnesota updated their CCW law. There was one word in the update that lead to Minnesota dropping reciprocity to a number of states, Utah, Iowa and Missouri among them. Minnesota dropped Missouri because Missouri lowered the age for CCW from 21 to 19. The reason for Minnesota dropping Iowa and Utah was different—but each case was due to one word that changed in Minnesota’s CCW law. That word was, “similar.”
By now you may have heard Minnesota no longer recognizes Utah’s concealed carry weapon permits, as well as three other states (Missouri, Texas, and Wyoming). What you may not have heard is this change in Minnesota law means Minnesotan’s now have reciprocity with nine new states, most notably North and South Dakota, their neighbors to the west. Prior to this Minnesota refused to recognize out-of-state concealed carry permits from any of their bordering states. This is a significant improvement for Minnesota residents, particularly those that live and work along the western border with North and South Dakota.
BUT, the loss of reciprocity with the state of Utah has a direct impact on Iowans because tens of thousands of us have Utah permits to carry, which up until very recently meant we could legally carry in Minnesota. Now these Iowans will have to find other means to carry in order to remain lawful.
It took pro-Second Amendment advocates in Minnesota years of hard work to secure reciprocity with their neighbors to their west. But unfortunately they ended their agreement with Utah and three other states all because of the interpretation of one word: similar.
Lawmakers in Minnesota approved the update to their state’s carry law, but ultimately it’s up to Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) to determine what other state’s carry laws apply. The mandate says in order to recognize an out-of-state carry permit, the state of origin must have a permitting system that is “similar.” So when the Minnesota DPS reviewed the updated carry law they determined that Utah’s permits are not similar because there’s no proficiency test in Utah. Which coincidentally is part of the reason they refuse to recognize Iowa’s Permit to Carry.
Had the Minnesota law been written another way, or updated so that the DPS had to maintain its current reciprocity agreements this story would be much different. But as it stands the interpretation of the words “substantially similar” falls to the DPS and at the end of the day this gives them a tremendous amount of power.
Specific words truly do matter especially when it comes to changing laws. Every single word in a bill must be perfect. When the wrong word, or a weak or ambiguous word makes its way into a bill that gets signed into law the results can be utterly disastrous.
The column continues on the website. You can read it all here.
For want of a single word, Minnesota dropped reciprocity with four states. When Missouri lowered the CCW age from 21 to 19, Missouri lost reciprocity to several states, Nevada, Oregon and Washington among them.
This example from Minnesota is why we must examine legislative bills, regardless of the topic, carefully. A single word, or for want of one word, or even a comma, the world could change.