ST. CLOUD, Minn. – U.S. District Judge John Tunheim ruled that laws and ordinances prohibiting the public carrying of a rifle are not unconstitutional.
According to the decision, Tyler Gottwalt was walking from St. Cloud into Sauk Rapids openly carrying his AK-47 when he was arrested by members of the Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud Police Departments. Gottwalt had a proper permit to carry at that time, and the Sauk Rapids police officers realized he had committed no crime, and left him with their St. Cloud counterparts.
After consulting with the St. Cloud Attorney’s office, the police charged Gottwalt with violating a St. Cloud city ordinance forbidding the possession of a semiautomatic military-style assault weapon. However, after three iterations of the case, the Stearns County District Court granted Gottwalt’s motion to dismiss the charges.
In April 2016 Gottwalt then sued the city and the arresting St. Cloud officers for violating his constitutional rights. Judge Tunheim was less than sympathetic as Gottwalt sought $75,000 in damages and other fees.
“After careful consideration of all the relevant Minnesota statutes, the Court finds that Minnesota law, which allows an individual to carry a weapon in public while in possession of a valid permit, does not permit an individual to carry a military-style assault weapon (including an AK-47),” reads the opinion, “As a result, the Ordinance does not conflict with Minnesota law.”
The court dismissed Gottwalt’s argument that the ordinance was unconstitutional under the 2nd Amendment. He had cited District of Columbia v. Heller where the Supreme Court held that the 2nd Amendment protected the right of citizens to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, and struck down a law prohibiting the possession of handguns in the home.
The court did not find this persuasive, as Gottwalt did not argue the need for an AK-47 for self defense, and the Heller case he used to argue did not extend to the right to carry a firearm in public. He also cited McDonald v. Chicago as extending the Heller decision to cover the states.
“In fact, the Supreme Court in Heller explained ‘[l]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,’” reads the ruling, “As Gottwalt’s reliance on Heller and McDonald is misguided, the Court finds that the Ordinance is neither unconstitutional or overbroad with respect to the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”