Through about Christmas, Rice County Deputy Chief Dave Stensrud said the county issued approximately 49 permits each to purchase and to carry a handgun. In 2011, the county averaged 16 permits a month.
However, when Patch examined an increase for gun permits in Rice County in May 2012, Rice County was already on pace for a record year. Through April 30, 2012, Rice County had issued 137 new permits to carry a handgun, which Stensrud and other law enforcement officials attributed partly to uncertainty in federal politics and who would control the White House and Congress following the 2012 elections.
“I think (people) in general are just more in tune with what their legal rights are and they’re more able to exercise them if they think are appropriate," Stensrud said in May.
Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said the county received 56 requests the Monday and Tuesday after the shooting—about three times higher than the seven to 10 applications processed in a typical day.
Bellows said he's worried that some of the people applying for permits may have serious mental-health issues. And under current law, there's nothing he can do about it.
“Since 2008, we’ve seen a significant increase from year to year, and this year is going to be the highest year ever,” Bellows said, predicting that the county would end up processing more than 2,500 applications in 2012, more than 70 percent greater than 2011.
Rice and Dakota counties aren't unique; permit requests were up throughout the state in the days since the shooting and requests in Hennepin County more than doubled, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
"When you look at the mass shootings that occur time after time after time after time, they’re young males and they have a history of mental health issues, and they’re not always involved in the court system."—Sheriff Dave Bellows
Bellows said that only about 1 percent of all applications in Dakota County are rejected because Minnesota’s carry law doesn’t allow local law enforcement to look at applicants’ mental health records other than their criminal history.
“When you look at the mass shootings that occur time after time after time after time, they’re young males and they have a history of mental health issues, and they’re not always involved in the court system,” he said. “I know that this is going to upset a lot of people, but if we’re trying to be effective in really screening the people who should not have weapons, there are a lot of people that were committed by their families as adolescents, or even as adults, that we won’t necessarily know have had mental health issues because it didn’t involve the courts.”
Minnesota’s carry law has been on the books since 2003, though it was struck down by the courts in 2005 on a constitutional technicality before being reinstated by the legislature later that year.