By Tom Steward | Watchdog Minnesota Bureau
CHANHASSEN — Ready, aim, contribute!
It’s open season for legislators with a 2014 re-election campaign in their sights. State Rep. Cindy Pugh thinks she’s hit a bull’s-eye with her “Get Your Carry Permit With Cindy!” fundraiser next weekend, which provides residents a change to train with firearms and contribute to her political coffer.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that they’ve never heard of anyone doing this before and I don’t know that it has been done before,” said Pugh, a Republican. “But this is an idea that my campaign team came up with as we were brainstorming ways to connect with my voters and my constituents and just heighten awareness about issues that are important.”
Pugh’s supporters will contribute to her campaign by paying a $125 fee ($100 for permit renewals) to take a one-day training class alongside the freshman legislator Saturday. The session in the Twin Cities suburb of Chanhassen covers the state-required training needed to apply for a permit to carry a handgun in Minnesota.
“It’s something I’ve given consideration to for a long, long time,” said Pugh, who does not own a handgun but says she plans to buy one. “I recognize the critical importance of the Second Amendment and this is just something that I’ve wanted to do.”
The unusual political fundraiser appears to be a first in Minnesota. An advocacy group working to end gun violence hopes it will be the last.
“My concern about a legislator using a concealed and carry permit class to raise money is it’s kind of cynical in a way,” said Joan Peterson, a board member of Protect Minnesota and the Brady Campaign. “It’s kind of already telling people alright, I support your gun rights no matter what. I mean, I don’t know how else you could look at it.”
Protect Minnesota lobbied against a “Stand Your Ground” bill — Protect Minnesota called it “Shoot First” — that passed both chambers of the 2012 Minnesota Legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. The number of handgun permit holders in Minnesota has spiked this year, increasing by 35,000 to reach an all-time high of 150,000 this summer.
“We don’t want more people carrying guns in more places,” said Peterson. “We want fewer people carrying guns into fewer places because that will make us safer.”
Students at Pugh’s handgun training class can donate $100 toward a free scholarship to a constituent who cannot afford the price of admission. One of Pugh’s constituents will be the instructor, certified trainer Andrew Rothman, who also offers classes through Minnesota Gun Training. A well-known leader in opposing gun restrictions at the State Capitol, Rothman will limit the number of
participants to 20 and donate his time as a way of bolstering Pugh’s Second Amendment credentials.
“She’s getting all the profits. I’m getting 5 bucks to cover my photocopying costs,” said Rothman. “I think the campaign is buying them lunch, too. It’s all gravy from there…I’m just showing up and volunteering, exactly the same as if I drove her car in a parade.”
A dozen RSVP’s were registered on the fundraiser’s Facebook page, six women and six men, some of whom offered thumbs-up comments. “Been meaning to do this for a long time! Thanks!” said one woman who signed up. “The Second Amendment needs our help!” wrote a man who plans to attend.
The training winds up at a Burnsville shooting range, where the legislator and other students will get the opportunity to fire off several volleys.
For Pugh, call it the first rounds of the 2014 campaign.
Contact Tom Steward at [email protected].