ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Axel Anderson of Alexandria hasn’t even applied for a permit to carry, but yet he is suing Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen over not being able to get one.
Anderson is 18 years old, and state law says permit holders must be 21 years old.
Anderson, along with two other young adults, is part of a lawsuit alleging Minnesota’s minimum age of 21 to carry a gun is unconstitutional.
Anderson, Kristin Worth of Milaca and Austin Dye of Rosemount, filed action June 7 with three gun groups joining them: the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition.
"My reason for the lawsuit is fairly simple. I want to be able to carry a firearm on me at 18 instead of 21."
- Axel Anderson
Anderson said the lawsuit started when the Firearms Policy Coalition was looking for younger people who wanted to be able to carry firearms on them.
“I didn’t hesitate to reach out to them as it was something I felt very strongly about,” Anderson said, explaining that the coalition got him in contact with a law firm to represent him.
From there, he said the law firm prepared the case over several months and then just recently filed the suit. He said it would be slow moving as many cases similar to this are. But he is hoping that it results in real change in Minnesota and possibly an even greater area.
“My reason for the lawsuit is fairly simple,” Anderson said. “I want to be able to carry a firearm on me at 18 instead of 21.”
Anderson said he can take the required class on safety and handling of a handgun before he turns 21, but yet he still can’t apply for the permit.
In Minnesota, it is the county sheriff's offices that process permit applications. The other two people in the lawsuit are also suing the sheriff’s in the counties they reside in, as well, he said. The other two sheriffs are Mille Lacs County Sheriff Don Lorge and Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry.
"As sheriff, my sworn obligation is to uphold the law as it exists today in Minnesota."
- Troy Wolbersen, Douglas County Sheriff
John Harrington, who is the Minnesota Public Safety commissioner, is also named as a defendant as part of the lawsuit.
“As sheriff, my sworn obligation is to uphold the law as it exists today in Minnesota," Wolbersen said in a statement. "I don’t get to pick and choose which laws I like, nor can I take action or withhold action based on what someone thinks the law should be. The Legislature makes the law. I do not. I’m unable to comment further due to the pending litigation.”
Wolbersen noted that the county sent the complaint to the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust agency, which will be handling the case. A spokesperson from that agency said the complaint has been filed and it will be assigned to counsel.
Safety is a concern
Anderson said that he worked the overnight shift at a hotel and there were multiple occasions where he did not feel safe and had no way of protecting himself. He said he’s called 911 before and that it took more than 15 minutes for anybody to arrive.
“That’s more than enough time to get robbed and have them leave without a trace,” Anderson said. “If I had a firearm, I would be able to protect myself instantly.”
He feels there are many situations other 18-year-olds are in where they feel unsafe whether at work or just walking down the street.
“There are too few police and too large of an area to keep everybody safe at all times,” Anderson said. “I would like the ability to keep myself safe against anybody. I also believe this could be especially beneficial to young women. They aren’t as strong or fast as many men are. Even a knife can be easily pulled out of a person’s hand and used against them, but a gun would level the field.”
In rural areas, if something were to happen while out for a walk or even going to the gas station, he said law enforcement would not be able to get there fast enough to do anything to protect him.
"There are too few police and too large of an area to keep everybody safe at all times. I would like the ability to keep myself safe against anybody."
- Axel Anderson
He said he feels that if more young women were able to be armed, there would be a decline in assaults and human trafficking or attacks against young women just walking to work or walking out to their cars at the mall.
According to the lawsuit, Anderson has never been charged with nor convicted of any misdemeanor or felony offense and that his intention and desire to lawfully carry a handgun in public is for purposes of self-defense.
The lawsuit also states that he is a responsible citizen not disqualified from exercising his Second Amendment rights.
Additionally, the lawsuit said that while working at the hotel, Anderson’s girlfriend, who was not named, visited him and that she was accosted and chased through the hotel parking lot by a group of unknown aggressors. Because of this, Anderson wants to carry a handgun in public for not only his safety, but that of his girlfriend.
According to the lawsuit, Anderson would lawfully acquire, through a gift from his father, a Beretta model 92A1 handgun to carry outside the home in public if he were able to obtain a carry permit.
Lawsuit moves ahead
In a news release from the Gun Owners Caucus, the Second Amendment lawsuit filed is seeking to restore the right of adults under 21 years of age in Minnesota to carry loaded, operable arms in public for self-defense and other lawful purposes.
According to the release, the state's “legal scheme” is an unconstitutional total ban on the exercise of the fundamental human right to bear arms for a broad class of legal, law-abiding adults who can vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, marry and serve in the armed forces.
“We have members and supporters of our organization that serve honorably in the armed forces and the Minnesota National Guard yet are entirely prohibited from exercising their right to keep and bear arms," Rob Doar, political director for the caucus, said in the news release. "Minnesota’s prohibition that keeps 18- to 20-year-old adults from exercising their civil rights is unjust under any level of scrutiny.”