Regulation of Firearms in Minnesota

Eligibility to Own a Firearm

With certain limited exceptions, the following are not eligible to possess a firearm:

  • persons under the age of 18 (this prohibition is limited to pistols and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons);
  • persons who have been convicted of or adjudicated for a crime of violence or a felony-level drug offense, unless ten years have elapsed since sentence discharge or restoration of civil rights, whichever occurs first, and during that time the person has not been convicted of another such offense;
  • persons who are or have been confined as mentally ill, found incompetent to stand trial, or found to be mentally retarded under the civil commitment law;
  • persons who have been convicted of a nonfelony drug offense or who are or have been institutionalized as chemically dependent, unless they have satisfactory proof that they have not abused alcohol or drugs for two years;
  • persons who have been convicted of domestic assault and who were found by the court to have used a firearm during the commission of the assault, for the time period determined by the sentencing court. This time period must be not less than three years and may last the person’s lifetime;
  • persons who have been convicted of a felony punishable by imprisonment for more than one year (other than a crime of violence) whose civil rights have not yet been restored;
  • persons who are currently charged with a felony punishable by imprisonment for more than one year (this prohibition is limited to pistols and semiautomatic military-style assault weapons); and
  • persons who are fugitives from justice, unlawful users of controlled substances, judicially committed as mentally ill or mentally retarded, illegal aliens, or persons who have been dishonorably discharged from the United States armed forces or have renounced United States citizenship.

Violation of these possession prohibitions is punishable as a gross misdemeanor; except that illegal possession of a pistol or assault weapon by a minor is punishable as a five-year felony and illegal possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a crime of violence is punishable as a 15-year felony.

Permit to Carry

State law prohibits any person, other than a law enforcement officer or a state prison guard who is performing assigned duties, from carrying a pistol in a motor vehicle or in a public place without obtaining a “permit to carry.” A permit to carry is not required to carry the pistol in the following situations:

  • in one’s home, place of business, or on one’s land;
  • from the place of purchase to one’s home or place of business;
  • from one’s home or place of business to a repair shop;
  • between one’s home and place of business;
  • in the woods, fields, or on the waters of this state for hunting or target shooting in a safe area; or
  • in a motor vehicle, snowmobile, or boat if the pistol is unloaded and in a secured box or package.

An application for a permit to carry may be made to the local police chief or sheriff, setting forth personal information about the applicant and containing a statement that the applicant is not prohibited from possessing a pistol. The application also must contain an authorization for the release of relevant mental health commitment information to the investigating law enforcement agency. The law enforcement agency may charge a fee of up to ten dollars to cover the cost of the background check, and may grant the permit only if: the applicant is not prohibited from possessing a pistol; the applicant has a firearms safety certificate or other satisfactory proof of ability to safely use the pistol; and the applicant has an occupation or personal safety hazard requiring the permit to carry.

Any person who carries a pistol without a permit to carry or who knowingly makes a false statement to obtain a permit to carry is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. A second or subsequent offense is a five-year felony.

Illegal Weapons

It is a felony to sell or possess any device designed to muffle or silence the discharge of a firearm. The maximum penalty for this offense is two years imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine; however, if the offense is committed in or near a school, park, or public housing property, the maximum penalty is five years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine. Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1a Machine Guns, Short barreled Shotguns, Machine Gun Conversion Kits, and Trigger Activators.

It is a felony, with certain limited exceptions, to own, possess, or operate a machine gun, short-barreled shotgun, trigger activator, or machine gun conversion kit. The maximum penalty for this offense is five years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine. Minn. Stat. § 609.67.

Written by former law clerk Sean Taylor