Gun Permit Requests Soar in Rice, Dakota Counties; Sheriff Questions State's Gun Laws

Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said that Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law allows some people with serious mental health issues to acquire firearms.

In the days after the , shooting, Rice and Dakota counties saw a big uptick in applications for permits to carry a pistol.

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.

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David Dyer-Bennet January 04, 2013 at 07:22 PM
The headline makes it sound like one needs some kind of permit to own a gun. In Minnesota, one does not, of course. (In the body, at least once the correct term, "permit to carry", is used; but in the third paragraph there's another reference to a "gun permit".) I see the same mistaken usage in a sidebar link to another article. Any productive conversation about issues, problems, or possible changes to rules, needs to start from an accurate understanding of the current position. Consistently mis-describing the current situation is not helpful!
Jim Flaherty January 05, 2013 at 12:48 AM
David, you may not understand that in the state of Minnesota you do need a permit to purchase a handgun or a so called assault rifle. To get a permit to acquire for a hand gun or assault rifle you need to go to your local police department if you live in a city or to you sheriff’s department if you live in the country. You need to fill out the application and the department will take a copy of your driver’s license. The department then runs a background check with local, state and federal officials. If you pass the background check you will be issued a permit that is good for 1 year. For a permit to carry you will need to take a class and then show that you are proficient with a handgun. After the course is completed you will need to apply for your permit and pay your fee to the Police or Sheriff’s department. The permit to carry is good for 5 years. So whoever told you that you do not need a permit lied to you or was ignorant of the law.


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