GOCRA Grades – 2016 Minnesota Legislature – Primary Edition

On Tuesday, August 9, Minnesota’s open primaries will be held. That means that any voter may vote in any party’s primary — although the voter must vote for only one party on the whole ballot. This provides an opportunity to help shape the competition for November.

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Key: A: Second Amendment leader B: Usually pro-2A C: Sometimes pro-2A D: Occasionally pro-2A F: Almost never pro-2A F*: No questionnaire returned; presumed hostile to 2A (P): Provisional grade, based on words, not actions


Senate District 1

DFL Party
Jual Carlson F*
Kip Fontaine F* party endorsed
Republican Party
Edwin Hahn A-(P)
Mark Johnson F* party endorsed

In the northwest corner of the state, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, is retiring after 36 years in office. Two DFLers and two Republicans are vying for the position. Both House districts in the area are served by Republicans, so the seat is truly up for grabs.

The Republicans are Jual Carlson and and Kip Fontaine. Neither Fontaine, the Republican-endorsed candidate, nor Carlson, completed the candidate questionnaire. Fontaine’s web site makes no mention of the Second Amendment; Carlson has no web site.

The DFLers are Mark Johnson and Edwin Hahn. Johnson, the endorsed candidate, did not complete the questionnaire. On his campaign web site, he writes, ” When I read what the Constitution says about gun ownership, I don’t see room for interference by the State or Federal government. In Minnesota, gun ownership is a tradition we must promote and protect.”

Hahn did complete our questionnaire, and scored a provisional A-, usually the highest possible grade for a candidate without a voting record.

Senate District 5

Republican Party
Pedie Pederson F*
Justin Eichorn A- (P)

In SD 5, two Republicans hope to end DFL Senator Tom Saxhaug’s tenure in St. Paul.

One, Pedie Pederson, filed for office as a DFLer, then switched to the Republican ticket days later. Pederson seemed equally confused about gun rights, and failed to complete our questionnaire.

The other Republican (this one for the whole time) candidate, Justin Eichorn, did complete our questionnaire, earning a provisional grade of A-, usually the highest possible grade for a candidate without a voting record.

Senate District 15

DFL Party
Chilah Brown F*
Rob Passons F*
Republican Party
Andrew Mathews A- (P)
Dan Whitcomb B+ (P)

In this heavily Republican-leaning district, the retirement of Senator David Brown has brought out four candidates: two DFLers and two Republicans.

According to Mathews’ web site, he “Supports the expansion of law abiding citizens exercising their 2nd Amendment rights. Will fight against any efforts to expand mandatory government background checks, gun registration, or any other attempt to curtail the 2nd Amendment freedoms.”

Whitcomb’s web site says, “I support the individual right to bear arms for the protection of life, home and property.”

Read more:

Senate District 23

DFL Party
Barbara Ann Lake F*
John M. Lillis D (P)(party endorsed)

Lillis doesn’t appear to have a web site; Lake never set up hers.

The winner of the primary will face Republican incumbent Julie Rosen in this strongly GOP-leaning district.

Senate District 24

DFL Party
Rich Bailey B+ (P)
Vicki Jensen F (incumbent)

Incumbent Senator Vicki Jensen, a confirmed opponent of gun rights, is being challenged by Rich Bailey, who indicates on his questionnaire that he supports the Second Amendment, writing, “I believe we have an individual right to keep and bear arms.”

Read more: Mankato Free Press

Senate District 27

Republican Party
Gene Dornink F*
Cynthia Gail F

While Dornick didn’t complete a questionnaire, leaving us to guess his views, Cynthia Gail left no doubt: almost all of her answers used weasel words and “need more info” and “we may need to consider.” The winner in this primary race will be up against incumbent, A-rated DFL Senator Dan Sparks, in the general election.

Read more:

Senate District 32

Republican Party
Mark Koran B+ (P)
Sean Nienow A (incumbent)
Read more: Star Tribune Forest Lake Times

Senate District 52

DFL Party
Matt Klein F*
Todd Podgorski F

While neither Democrat returned our candidate questionnaire, Podgorski, who is a police officer, believes that cops should have fully functional firearms to protect his life, but other private citizens should not. He also supports gun registration disguised as “enhanced background checks.” That earns him an F.

Senate District 59

DFL Party
Bobby Joe Champion F (incumbent)
Patwin Lawrence F

Champion is an established opponent of Second Amendment rights. Lawrence seeks to replace him and do the same, calling for “Sensible regulations on the purchase and ownership of firearms….”

Senate District 62

DFL Party
Mohamoud Hassan F*
Jeff Hayden F (incumbent)

An unknown quantity takes on a known opponent of Second Amendment rights. Hayden was implicated last in a controversy involving misspent nonprofit funds, later repaying almost $3000.

Read more: Star Tribune: Hassan Star Tribune: Nonprofit scandal

Senate District 64

Republican Party
Sharon Anderson F
Ian Baird B+ (P)

While neither candidate in this overwhelmingly DFL district stands much of a chance, we should point out that Ian Baird turned in a very pro-2A candidate questionnaire, and that Sharon Anderson, who runs for office every couple years, but never wins, sends us incoherent, babbling emails.

The winner will face F-rated DFLer Richard Cohen in November.


House District 1B

DFL Party
Mike Moore F
Erv Rud D (P)

In House District 1B, two DFLers are hoping for a chance to unseat incumbent Republican Debra Kiel in November.

Erv Rud completed our our candidate questionnaire, giving many “right” answers, but his “issues” page suggests taxing and suing gun owners. He calls this a “smart approach.” (

Mike Moore, who was endorsed by his DFL district, did not complete the questionnaire, which is often a sign of hostility toward Second Amendment rights. His silence earns him a provisional grade of F.

Read more: Crookston Times

House District 6A

DFL Party
Julie Sandstede B- (P)
Tom Whiteside F*
Ben DeNucci F*
Mike Thompson F*

No candidate received a party endorsement in this race, triggered by the retirement of Rep. Carly Melin.

Only Julie Sandstede cared enough about gun owners’ votes to complete our questionnaire.

Whiteside is a former aide to anti-2A Congressman Rick Nolan. If he has a differing opinion on Second Amendment rights, we can’t find it.

Read more: Duluth News Tribune

House District 7B

DFL Party
Bryan Jensen F*
Liz Olson F* (endorsed)

Both candidates in this primary are silent on — and therefore presumed hostile to — Second Amendment rights.

House District 13A

DFL Party
Jane Leitzman F*
Anne Buckvold F*

The winner in this race will face A-rated Republican incumbent Jeff Howe in November.

House District 15A

Republican Party
Sondra Erickson A (incumbent)
Tom Heinks B- (P)

Incumbent Sondra Erickson has a 100% pro-2A voting record in the last biennium. Heinks, while he did not complete a questionnaire, has a strong pro-2A statement on his web site.

House District 31A

Republican Party
Kurt Daudt A
Alan Duff B (P)

House Speaker Kurt Daudt has a 100% pro-2A voting record, and led the House as we passed five pro-2A bills in 2015. Duff has been sending a long series of deceptive attack mailings against Daudt.

House District 31B

Republican Party
Cal Bahr B (P)(party endorsed)
Tom Hackbarth A

A-rated incumbent Tom Hackbarth has a 100% pro-2A voting record in the last biennium, and has a long history of working with GOCRA to pass pro-rights bills. Bahr’s candidate questionnaire shows strong support for the Second Amendment as well.

House District 40B

DFL Party
Debra Hilstrom B
Jim Richards B- (P)

A county prosecutor, Hilstrom doesn’t hold back in committee hearings, cross-examining our testifiers on gun-related bills. While she has never been a gun rights activist, she is intellectually honest and seems to understand the difference between gun owners and criminals.

Although unproven, challenger Jim Richard’s candidate questionnaire casts him as a pro-2A candidate.

Read more: SunPost Newspaper

House District 48A

Republican Party
Kris Newcomer F*
Mary Shapiro B+ (P)(party endorsed)
Read more: Eden Prairie News: Newcomer profile Eden Prairie News: Shapiro profile

House District 50B

DFL Party
Andrew Carlson F*
Christopher Seymore Sr. F*

The winner in this race will face Republican incumbent Chad Anderson

House District 56A

DFL Party
Jared Christiansen F
Dan Kimmel F*

Kimmel kept us guessing; Christiansen gave us enough awful answers to earn his “F.” We appreciate his candor.

The winner will challenge Republican incumbent Drew Christensen in the general election in November.

House District 59A

DFL Party
Joe Mullery F
Fue Lee F*

Mullery, a 72-year-old attorney, has consistently earned an F from GOCRA for his anti-2A votes. In 2015 he broke his streak, voting FOR a small pro-2A measure, earning a 9% pro-2A voting record for the biennium.

Challenger Fue Lee, 24, is Carleton College grad, and currently works for Secretary of State Steve Simon.

Listen to an interview with Lee: KFAI Radio

House District 60B

DFL Party
Phyllis Kahn F (incumbent)
Mohamud Noor F*
Ilhan Omar F*

Phyllis Kahn has been a state representative since Biblical times (okay, since 1973), and has a perfect record voting AGAINST Second Amendment rights. She was challenged by two candidates for her party’s endorsement, and consistently came in second place, although in the end no endorsement was made.

Challenger Mohamud Noor is executive director of the Somali Confederation of Minnesota and a former member of the Minneapolis school board, and was endorsed by the Star Tribune to replace Kahn.

Challenger Ilhan Omar is a community organizer who favors strong police and criminal justice reform.

The winner of this primary will face Republican Abdimalik Askar in the overwhelmingly DFL district.

Read more: Star Tribune

House District 65A

DFL Party
Rena Moran F
Rashad Anthony Turner F*

Confirmed anti-2A Representative Rena Moran faces Black Lives Matter organizer Rashad Turner in Tuesday’s primary. Turner has not expressed to us his views on the Second Amendment.

Read more: Pioneer Press

Falcon Heights shooting: let’s take a deep breath

Gun owners, Second Amendment advocates, and civil rights supporters:

Let’s all slow down and take a deep breath.

We have seen some horrible things happen in the last couple of days. While we don’t have official confirmation of all the facts, it seems very likely that a permit holder who didn’t have any violent intentions was killed by a Minnesota police officer Wednesday night. Last night, apparently in response, five police officers were killed in Dallas, and seven others were wounded.

In the last 36 hours, GOCRA leadership has been flooded with calls to support the police, to condemn the police, to be louder, and to be quieter. There is little doubt that no one is going to agree with everything we say, and that’s okay. We each see events through the lens of our own life experience and worldview.

But some things need to be said.

  There isn’t a war on police. There isn’t a war on permit holders. And there isn’t a war on the black community.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems, and that doesn’t mean we don’t have things to fix, but almost all citizens, permit holders, and police officers are good people, just trying to do our best and get through our days.

What unites us is much more than what divides us, and we need, as hard as it can be sometimes, to expect that we will deal with each other with respect, trust, and empathy.

  We don’t have all the facts about what happened in Falcon Heights

In fact, we barely have any facts.

We do have a ton of assumptions, allegations, and theories. We think Philando Castile was a permit holder — his mom and girlfriend say he was — but that data is, appropriately, private.

We don’t know what transpired during the traffic stop on Wednesday night. We don’t know what was said and done, nor in what order.

We do have a video made by Philando Castile’s girlfriend immediately after the shooting. In it, we can see that both she and Officer Yanez are very shaken up.

Firearm trainers and investigators and psychologists all know that adrenaline messes with your mind, with your perceptions of time and space, and with your memory. That’s why police officers are almost always given a day or two to settle down before being subject to an investigational interview. Because in the moment, their thoughts and memories are going to be jumbled and confused by the stress.

  What do we do know?

We know that Philando Castile was shot and killed by Officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop Wednesday night.

We do know that Castile got a lot of traffic tickets in his life, but had never been convicted of any serious or violent crime.

We also know that Officer Yanez has a clean record, with no serious or violent crimes, nor complaints about his work as a police officer.

We have the video of the aftermath.

And that’s about it. I pray that there is good audio and video from the squad car video camera, and that it might shed some light on what happened.

  We have to remember that people are fallible

It is almost certain that neither Philando Castile nor Officer Yanez acted with any bad intent.

But! It is entirely possible — even likely — that Castile, or Yanez, or both, made errors in communication, judgement, and tactics that contributed to the outcome.

  We need to get the facts – quickly, transparently, and believably

Right now, there’s a lot of distrust in the air: distrust of the police by citizens, distrust of the integrity of investigations of public officials, distrust of permit holders, distrust of those who advocate for civil rights. Distrust of the media, which sees and reports events through its own lens.

While healthy skepticism is good, a society can’t survive when the people and the government can’t trust each other at all. This Falcon Heights incident needs to be thoroughly investigated, and right now.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is already on the case, and that’s good, but we believe that the Obama Justice Department ought to do its own, independent investigation. We need to get to the bottom of what happened, we need to do it soon.

And when we get the facts from multiple, independent sources, maybe we can trust that they are real, and not a police cover-up.

  The police need to do better

Better training for police officers can go a long way toward ensuring that a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again. We need to make that happen, and we need to do it now.

EVERY police officer needs to recognize what most do already: permit holders are among the very few certified “good guys” officers will encounter on a shift.

And police departments need to do more — much more — to gain the trust of citizens, and that means more accountability and more transparency.

Yes, that means more body cameras, but it also means police leaders need to have the courage to get rid of the bad apples in their departments. It means that police contracts need to give the chiefs and the cities the authority to get rid of those bad apples.

And it means that police officers have to cross the thin blue line. Police officers need to sometimes say, “No, what this officer did is NOT okay, and he doesn’t belong in our ranks.”

Nobody’s perfect, and every organization has some marginal employees. But when these employees have a badge, a gun, and no direct supervision for most of their shift, the police can’t afford to have ANY marginal employees. With great power comes great responsibility, and police officers wield enormous power. That means that the standard for police officers’ conduct HAS to be higher.

For our police officer friends: it may not seem fair, but you are coming from way behind. It’s not all your fault, but it is absolutely your problem: too many in the community don’t trust you, and you’re going to have to work hard, individually and as a group, to earn back that trust. Your life may one day depend on it.

  The community needs to do better

EVERY permit holder has to remember that guns are powerful tools, capable of strong defense and strong offense, and we need to remember that a police officer may not know the permit holder’s status on initial contact.

Permit holders, let’s go out of our way to make really, really sure that we don’t present a perceived threat to law enforcement officers. Because your life may one day depend on it.

Community leaders need to do more to break down the “no snitch” mentality in the community. Just as the police need to kick out their bad apples, so do we. When criminals hurt others, we need to work with the police to get those criminals caught, and prosecuted, and locked up.

And we need to acknowledge that not every police use of force is unjustified. There are real bad guys out there, and they do resist and attack the police.  Those officers have just as much right as you or I to defend themselves from attack — and they have the added duty to protect society.

When I see trouble, I run away. Cops can’t do that. They need to run toward trouble, and risk their lives, to protect us.

And we all need to lose the “us-vs-them” mentality. The police aren’t the enemy. And neither are the people. We all want to live in a safe, free society.

  So let’s take a deep breath

Let’s let the investigation proceed – quickly. Let’s trust, but verify, that the investigation is thorough and honest. Let’s be more kind, more tolerant, and more patient with the people around us, and treat them with more respect.

We will be watching, carefully, and we’ll be working with our allies in the community and in law enforcement to work toward solutions that will help keep incidents like this from happening again.

  You’ve heard what we think

What do you think? Get in touch with us by email, on Facebook, or on Twitter, and tell us what you think.

St. Cloud Case: Long Gun Carry and State Preemption

A man was stopped and then ticketed by St. Cloud police, for openly carrying a rifle in public. Now he’s suing the city, saying the ticket was illegal, because he has a Minnesota permit to carry a pistol. What does the law say?

We asked GOCRA’s founder, Professor Joseph E. Olson, to explain.


This is general information and commentary. Every case is different: consult your attorney before taking any action that could expose you to legal jeopardy.

On November 17, 2014, Tyler Gottwalt was stopped by St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids police on the Sauk Rapids Regional Bridge, because he was carrying an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle on his back.

That stop was legal: Under Minnesota law (624.7181), carrying a rifle in a public place is generally forbidden. But there is an exception: it IS legal for a person to carry a long gun in public, if the person has a Minnesota Permit to Carry a Pistol.

Tyler Gottwalt did have a carry permit. Once the officers verified that fact, that should have been the end of the incident.

And for the Sauk Rapids Police officers, that was the end of the incident. They consulted with their County Attorney’s office, and quickly concluded that Tyler hadn’t broken any laws!

The St. Cloud cops were more stubborn. They cited Tyler for carrying a rifle in public, in violation of a St. Cloud ordinance that requires a long gun to be cased or broken apart.

But here’s the problem: St. Cloud isn’t allowed to enforce any ordinance about carrying guns that is different from state law. That’s called state preemption, and I was there at the Capitol, helping to pass that preemption law, back in 1985. It’s been state law ever since.

Again, cities and counties cannot regulate guns! That’s why a county judge threw out the citation. That’s why Tyler is suing the police and the city for false arrest. And that’s why he will win.

There are ordinances like this all over the state. We’ve been able to work with a number of cities to voluntarily remove them. The others, it seems, need to be slapped down in court. We hope that other cities will learn from St. Cloud’s mistake and do the right thing before they end up in hot water and wind up costing their taxpayers money.

Here’s the lawsuit filing: Gottwalt v. Oxton, et al.