Minnesota law1 removes nearly all regulatory authority from local governments in the areas of firearms, ammunition, or their respective components. However, the legislature has enacted various exceptions to preemption. Pursuant to these exceptions, local governments may legislate:

  • The discharge of firearms;2
  • In ways identical to state law;3
  • The location of businesses where guns are sold by a firearms dealer if the regulations are reasonable, nondiscriminatory and nonarbitrary zoning ordinances;4 and
  • Secondhand and junk dealers, although this authority is granted only to counties.5

School districts may regulate firearms as they relate to school grounds, facilities, transportation services, programs, or the conduct of students at any school activities.6 A school district may not, however, regulate the possession or carrying of firearms or ammunition by non-students or non-employees, in a manner that is inconsistent with a statute that generally prohibits possessing, storing, or keeping a firearm while knowingly on school property.7

In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota rejected a preemption challenge to a school district’s expulsion policy for possession of a dangerous weapon on school property.8 In  M.A.L., the expelled student argued that the school district’s expulsion policy was preempted by Minn. Stat. § 609.66, which makes possession of a dangerous weapon on school property a felony. The student argued that, even though school districts are expressly exempted from the firearm preemption statute, the later enactment of section 609.66 impliedly repealed the exemption and preempted school districts from regulating the possession of a weapon on school property.

The court applied a four-part preemption test originally set out in Mangold Midwest Co. v. Richfield, 143 N.W. 2d 813, 819 (Minn. Ct. App. 1966), a non-firearms case. The test consisted of four questions: 1) What is the subject matter to be regulated? 2) Has the subject matter been so fully covered by state law as to have become solely a matter of state concern? 3) Has the legislature, in partially regulating the subject matter, indicated that it is a matter solely of state concern? and 4) Is the subject matter itself of such a nature that local regulation would have unreasonably adverse effects upon the general populace of the state?

The M.A.L. court found that: 1) the subject matter to be regulated was possession of a dangerous weapon on school property 2) the subject matter was not so fully covered as to render it solely a matter of state concern 3) the partial regulation of the subject matter did not imply that the legislature intended to eliminate the school district’s ability to further regulate the subject matter and 4) the school district’s regulation of the subject matter did not adversely affect the general population.9 The court concluded the school district’s policy was not preempted by state law.

Other provisions of Minnesota law explicitly supersede all municipal and county regulation on:

  • The transfer of handguns;10
  • The ownership, possession, or operation of machine guns, trigger activators, machine gun conversion kit, and short-barreled shotguns;11
  • The issuance of “transferee permits” allowing the holder to purchase handguns and semiautomatic military-style weapons;12
  • The issuance, nature, and scope of permits to carry handguns;13
  • The carrying and possession of handguns, and the regulation of “Saturday Night Special Pistols;”14 and
  • Anything related to ammunition or its component parts.15

Minnesota law also specifies the authority of local units of government to regulate shooting ranges16: A shooting range that operates in compliance with “shooting range performance standards” [“National Rifle Association’s Range Source Book: A Guide to Planning and Construction”17] must be permitted to do all of the following within its geographic boundaries, under the same or different ownership or occupancy:

  • Operate the range and conduct activities involving the discharge of firearms;
  • Expand or increase its membership or opportunities for public participation related to the primary activity as a shooting range;
  • Make those repairs or improvements desirable to meet or exceed requirements of shooting range performance standards;
  • Increase events and activities related to the primary activity as a shooting range;
  • Acquire additional lands to be used for buffer zones or noise mitigation efforts or to otherwise comply with this chapter; and
  • Conduct shooting activities and discharge firearms daily between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.18

A local unit of government with zoning jurisdiction over a shooting range may extend the allowable hours of operation by the issuance of a special or conditional use permit.19 Furthermore, nothing shall supersede more restrictive regulation of days and hours of operation imposed by the terms and conditions of ordinances and permits that are in effect on May 28, 2005.20

A shooting range that is a nonconforming use shall be allowed to conduct additional shooting activities within the range’s lawful property boundaries as of the date the range became a nonconforming use, provided that the range remains in compliance with the state’s noise restrictions21 and shooting range performance standards.22

A person who owns, operates, or uses a shooting range that is in compliance with shooting range performance standards is not subject to any nuisance action for damages or equitable relief based on noise or other matters regulated by the shooting range performance standards.23 To the extent consistent with these provisions, a local unit of government with zoning authority jurisdiction over a shooting range may enforce its applicable ordinances and permits.24 Additionally, a state administrative regulation explicitly allows for local firearm use regulations on trails in outdoor recreation areas that are more restrictive than state regulations.25

Minnesota provides that “[n]otwithstanding any other law to the contrary,” federally licensed sellers may sell to residents of contiguous states and Minnesota residents may purchase firearms and ammunition in a contiguous state if lawful under 18 U.S.C. §§ 921 et seq.26

In 2015 the legislature enacted a law prohibiting government officials from the following during a state of emergency:

(1) prohibiting, regulating, or curtailing the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, transfer, defensive use, or other lawful use of any [firearms, ammunition, components and accessories];
(2) seizing, commandeering, or confiscating any of these items in any manner, [limited exceptions];
(3) suspending or revoking a valid permit to carry a handgun; or
(4) closing or limiting the operating hours of businesses that lawfully sell or service any of these items, unless such closing or limitation of hours applies equally to all forms of commerce.27

In addition, Minnesota has an “extreme preemption” statute because it allows a person to sue a government official personally—and seek damages and attorney fees—for allegedly violating the state’s preemption statute.28 For more about “Extreme Preemption” laws, visit our policy page, Local Authority to Regulate Firearms.

Notes
  1. Minn. Stat. § 471.633 ⤴︎
  2. Minn. Stat. § 471.633(a). ⤴︎
  3. Minn. Stat. § 471.633(b). ⤴︎
  4. Minn. Stat. § 471.635. ⤴︎
  5. Minn. Stat. § 471.924. Secondhand and “junk dealers” are persons engaged in the business of buying secondhand goods, including guns, excluding used goods taken as part or full payment for new goods. ⤴︎
  6. Minn. Stat. § 471.634. ⤴︎
  7. Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(g). ⤴︎
  8. In re the Expulsion of M.A.L., No. C8-02-739, 2002 Minn. App. LEXIS 1292 (Nov. 26, 2002). ⤴︎
  9. M.A.L., 2002 Minn. App. LEXIS 1292, at *6 -*8. ⤴︎
  10. Minn. Stat. § 624.7132, subd. 16. ⤴︎
  11. Minn. Stat. § 609.67, subd. 6. ⤴︎
  12. Minn. Stat. § 624.7131, subd. 12. ⤴︎
  13. Minn. Stat. § 624.714, subd. 23; In In re Application of Hoffman, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota held that a city policy imposing requirements for a handgun permit impermissibly infringed on the statutory directive of section 624.717. 430 N.W. 2d 210, 213 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988). ⤴︎
  14. Minn. Stat. § 624.717. ⤴︎
  15. Minn. Stat. § 624.7191, subd. 4. ⤴︎
  16. Minn. Stat. §§ 87A.01 et seq. ⤴︎
  17. Minn. Stat. § 87A.02. ⤴︎
  18. Minn. Stat. § 87A.03, subd. 1. ⤴︎
  19. Id. ⤴︎
  20. Minn. Stat. § 87A.08, subd. 1(a). ⤴︎
  21. Minn. Stat. § 87A.05. ⤴︎
  22. Minn. Stat. § 87A.03, subd. 2. ⤴︎
  23. Minn. Stat. § 87A.06. ⤴︎
  24. Minn. Stat. § 87A.08, subd. 1(a). ⤴︎
  25. Minn. R. 6100.4100. ⤴︎
  26. Minn. Stat. § 624.71. ⤴︎
  27. Minn. Stat. § 624.7192(c). ⤴︎
  28. Minn. Stat. § 624.7192(e). ⤴︎