A man and his cow at the Minnesota State Fair (Photo: Kevin Featherly)
This week’s topics: Great MN gun-together; a ‘revolutionary moment’; kiss-off, Cousins
Query 1: The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, claiming that the Minnesota State Fair’s Agriculture Society is a government entity, is suing for permit holders’ right to carry firearms on the fairgrounds. Governments can’t restrict permit-holders’ rights, they assert. If a requested injunction is issued and guns are allowed on the grounds, would it affect your plans to attend the State Fair?
Nick Zerwas, lobbyist, former GOP House member: No. My plan is still to go midweek, get there nice and early just as things are opening up and go straight for that waffle-cone breakfast bowl, with the syrup. Oh my God! But the reality is, I think the likelihood of success for the suit in this time period is less than likely. That being said, if permitted legal gun owners were allowed to be there, I would not be uncomfortable. I think the percentage of licensed permit carriers in Minnesota is significantly higher than in previous decades, with little to no consequence in crime from registered, legal gun owners. So I wouldn’t have a concern.
Ron Latz, attorney, DFL state senator: Well, I think the bigger risk is the coronavirus. But it would certainly give me pause, yes. I will note, however, that it applies only to permit-to-carry holders. For me the question is that there is not a great system in place for the courts to notify the permit-issuing authorities when a disqualifying event occurs. So an issuing sheriff’s office might not find out that a person was convicted of a domestic assault, for example, until it’s time to renew the permit—which might be far too late. So that’s part of the pause I have about that. That, frankly, was an element of the background check bill that we’ve been trying to get passed in the legislature, to update that process.
Jeff Hayden, political consultant, former DFL state senator: To be honest with you, I’m probably more worried about the Delta [COVID-19] variant than I am of conceal-and-carry gun owners carrying guns. I think that’s a bigger issue. If people have conceal-and-carry permits and they are responsible gun owners, they are probably just fine. They understand the laws and the ramifications if they did something wrong. It’s really those who don’t who are irresponsible. So I’m probably more scared of the Delta variant than I am of those guys.
Dennis Smith, attorney, former GOP House member: I will be more likely to go to the State Fair if people are able to conceal and carry. I’m a strong proponent of the Second Amendment. And in my opinion, it is clear the State Fair is a government agency. I would also point to all of Governor Walz’s comments about his authority over the State Fair. So for them to claim they are a private entity, it doesn’t match with what the governor has been saying about whether the State Fair can happen or not. Just a few weeks ago he was asked if the State Fair is going to happen and he said, I think so, we’re really working hard to make it happen. Well, his executive powers are gone, he has no authority over that. It is a very thin argument. They will lose if they try to say they are not a government agency.
[Editor’s note: Smith seems to be referencing the governor’s comments on July 27, when he said that he and state health officials are tracking the virus’ spread and weighing whether mitigation measures would be needed at the State Fair. This week, Walz said that decision would be up to the State Fair’s governing board, though it likely will get input from his administration.]
Query 2: The DFL and GOP state chairs are united in condemning the rhetoric of Minneapolis DFL party chair Devin Hogan, who called the burning of the city’s 3rd Police Precinct “a genuine revolutionary moment” and “an act of pure righteousness.” What did you think of those statements?
Zerwas: I think he’s bat-shit crazy. I know several police officers who were in the precinct who fled. I know several of them who are continuing to receive counseling from the attacks that they endured over those days, which culminated in that [arson]. The idea that there is anything righteous in attacking other human beings and setting fire to a place where people were just moments earlier, is insanity. Anybody who endorses, tacitly agrees or passively serves something like that and doesn’t speak out is complicit and should be ashamed.
Latz: It was ludicrous. The whole point of having a political system with representative government is for grievances to be addressed through the ballot box and not through violence. It is also factually wrong. We know that much of the violence—particularly arson—was committed by non-Minneapolis, white residents. So it doesn’t make any sense from that standpoint, either. Arson also, in effect, destroyed much of the community that is most aggrieved by the difficulties with the law enforcement agencies, right? I don’t see any good that has come out of it—other than the heightened focus on trying to do reform.
Politically, I think it’s disastrous, too. [Hogan] is going to become just another exhibit of the extremes that will be characterized by Republicans as mainstream Democratic policy.
Davids: That is sick. I would just say that it’s very unfortunate that someone in a leadership position such as that would be so irresponsible.
Hayden: I know Devin. I know [DFL state party Chair] Ken [Martin]. I know the players there. I can appreciate allies of social justice fights kind of standing tall with it. But the problem with that is, I don’t think the people who set the 3rd Precinct on fire were social-justice or racial-justice advocates, as it turns out. I never can condone, nor does anybody I know condone, that kind of violence. Violence begot violence. I will constantly say that I appreciate what Devin is trying to say. However, I think he probably went too far, especially in a leadership role for the party.
Smith: Those statements were deplorable and wrong. They should be retracted and apologized for. And consequences should be delivered for those actions.
Query 3: Despite his coach’s obvious frustration, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins won’t get vaccinated despite missing practices due to COVID-19 exposure. He says it’s a personal medical choice and that he prefers social distancing. He even proposed walling himself off behind Plexiglas during quarterback meetings to avoid further exposure. How would you advise Mr. Cousins?
Zerwas: Have a stellar, stellar first regular season game, don’t talk about this again and stay the hell away from everyone. I’m vaccinated. Almost everyone I know is vaccinated. If someone has a personal or medical concern or reason for not getting it, I am not going to shame anybody. But those people better be going above and beyond to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
Latz: Resign now. Colin Kaepernick is still available, as far as I’m aware. The Vikings and the Minnesota Vikings’ fans would all be better served.
Davids: I would totally agree with him. It’s his right to do it. Now, I made the choice to get my shot. I stood in line just like everybody else and I got it when it was my turn. But it is a personal decision. These mandates, like what the governor did yesterday, are just wrong. I made the choice to do it; others can make the choice not to.
Hayden: I think that’s absurd. Kirk Cousins is not somebody who works for a tech company and can wall himself off in his own bathroom and do his work every day. He works with the public. It’s a physical game, he’s literally touching someone almost every time he has a snap or he’s handing the ball off to someone. I think it’s completely selfish and self-righteous. If wants to take that path, then he should probably stop playing football and give somebody else the opportunity to play.
Smith: I would tell our great quarterback that he has a choice whether he wants to take the vaccine or not. His employer may act in a way that he doesn’t appreciate, if he doesn’t take the vaccine. The Vikings have the right to not play him or to suspend his contract. But our great quarterback has the right to not take the vaccine and he should not succumb to pressure if he does not want to.
[Editor’s note: Smith is a GOP candidate for Attorney General in 2022. We decided in early July that it was OK temporarily to keep him on the Sounding Board until the race heats up. Because the State Fair typically is seen as the election season’s launch, this likely is his last appearance on our panel, at least while he is in the race.]