On meaning of ‘carry’, Minnesota man will stand trial on gun/alcohol charges

In Minnesota, it is illegal to carry a gun while under the influence of alcohol.

The literal translation of that word — carry — led to charges being dropped against a man who was stopped by a Maple Grove police officer in April 2016 because he wasn’t carrying the gun; it was in his car’s console.

That definition — and the dropping of charges against Christopher Prigge — was upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals last July. But Prigge’s luck ran out today when the Minnesota Supreme Court said a gun in the car’s console fits the definition of “carrying.”

“‘Carry’ is defined as ‘[t]o hold or support while moving; bear,’or ‘[t]o hold or be capable of holding,’” Court of Appeals Judge Michelle Larkin wrote in her decision last year.

But in a decision that involved lessons on transitive verbs and objects, Justice David Lillehaug noted that the dictionary lists 27 definitions of “carry”, and one of them means Prigge will have to stand trial on the charge that he was under the influence while carrying a gun.

Plausible definitions of “carry” are: (1) “[t]o hold or support while moving; bear,” (2) “[t]o move or take from one place to another; transport: a train carrying freight,” and (3) “[t]o keep or have on one’s person,” Lillehaug said.

Taken together, the only reasonable interpretation of the phrase “carry a pistol on or about the person’s clothes or person” is that a person carries a pistol on or about one’s person by either (1) physically moving the pistol, or (2) having the pistol in one’s personal vicinity while moving. As a practical matter, for a pistol to be in one’s personal vicinity, it must be within arm’s reach.

Prigge asks us to adopt the court of appeals’ interpretation of “carry” and require a physical nexus between the person (or the person’s clothes) and the pistol. It is true that one definition of “carry” is “[t]o keep or have on one’s person.” The American Heritage Dictionary 285 (5th ed. 2011). But we must read “carry” in the context of the statute. See Haywood, 886 N.W.2d at 488. The physical-nexus interpretation might be reasonable if the statute only prohibited carrying a pistol “on” one’s person or clothing. But the statute prohibits carrying a pistol “about” one’s person or clothing as well. The physical-nexus interpretation would read the “or about” language out of the statute, and is therefore
unreasonable.

Today’s ruling doesn’t settle the question, though, of whether the gun was “within arm’s reach.”

That’s for the trial court to decide.

  • Erick

    “Today’s ruling doesn’t settle the question, though, of whether the gun was ‘within arm’s reach.’ ”
    I am guessing this will bring new meaning to “The long arm of the law.”

  • John

    According to the MN Office of the Revisor of Statues (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=624.7142)–currently–as of 2/14/2018:

    624.7142 CARRYING WHILE UNDER INFLUENCE OF
    ALCOHOL OR CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE.
    § Subdivision
    1.Acts prohibited.
    A person may not carry a pistol on or about
    the person’s clothes or person in a public place:
    (1) when the person is under the influence
    of a controlled substance, as defined in section 152.01,
    subdivision 4;
    (2) when the person is under the influence
    of a combination of any two or more of the elements named in clauses (1) and
    (4);
    (3) when the person is knowingly under the
    influence of any chemical compound or combination of chemical compounds that is
    listed as a hazardous substance in rules adopted under section 182.655 and that
    affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles of the person so as to impair the
    person’s clearness of intellect or physical control;
    (4) when the person is under the influence
    of alcohol;
    (5) when the person’s alcohol concentration
    is 0.10 or more; or
    (6)when the person’s alcohol concentration is less than 0.10, but more than 0.04.
    It is believable that the Revisor has simply not updated that part yet!! Too bad

    • Jerry

      Is a private vehicle “a public place?”

      • John

        good question…perhaps our pockets are a public place as well. Hard to accept that the judicial system is going to try the guy, and they haven’t even figured out what the law is–I guess ignorance is no excuse

        • The Supreme Court just settled what the law is.

          • John

            Right–the best judicial minds in the state are now going to hold the citizen to account for the law they just straightened out–after the fact.

  • kevins

    “Gunman kills at least 17 at Florida high school”…..and I doubt that he was drunk.