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Senate shoots down gun cell phone cases

ST. PAUL -- Young Minnesotans may think mobile telephone cases that look like guns are fun, but state legislators are close to banning them. "Someday, some kid is going to hold up a cell phone case and somebody ... is going to die," Sen. Ron Latz...

ST. PAUL -- Young Minnesotans may think mobile telephone cases that look like guns are fun, but state legislators are close to banning them.

"Someday, some kid is going to hold up a cell phone case and somebody ... is going to die," Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, said Wednesday before senators unanimously voted to forbid the cases.

Latz said the cases easily can be mistaken for real guns and a law enforcement officer or another armed person could shoot in self-defense.

"It is a dead-ringer to a pistol," Latz said.

Long-time sheriff and deputy Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, agreed. He said he could see someone walking down the street "going into their back pocket. ... If this were pulled out at an opportune time, it puts them and, it seems to me, a lot of people at risk."

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While the bill does not deal with other gun replicas, Ingebrigtsen said that toys like squirt guns look like "these side arms officers carry; you can't tell the difference."

Phone cases raise a special problem, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said. "There isn't anything in our society right now that is more common than cell phones."

Even though he eventually went with the winning side in the 60-0 vote, Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, worried. "Where do we stop? Making something similar to something ... it seems to be a kind of a slippery slope."

Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, pointed out that if the Latz legislation passes, it would be illegal to carry a cell phone case that looks like a gun, but a state handgun permit holder could carry a real pistol.

A similar bill awaits a full House vote.

The Latz bill does not address a similar issue.

There has been a lot of talk around the country in recent months about guns that look like cell phones. Gov. Mark Dayton wants them banned.

Kirk Kjellberg, the Monticello, Minn. creator of the cell phone handgun, said the criticism is unfair and unwarranted.

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