Northfield and Rice County in 2012 saw a record number of handgun-related permits issued.
And it's not a surprise.
When Northfield Patch examined the numbers in May, the city and county were on pace for a record year.
The number of permits to purchase a handgun in Northfield have increased every year but one since 2006, according to data provided by the Northfield Police Department, which is responsible for processing and approving those permits.
In 2006, 46 Northfield residents were issued a permit. For 2012, the department issued 103 permits. Those numbers include both new permits and annual renewals.
Number of Permits Issued
Number of Permits to Purchase a Handgun Issued in Northfield Since 2007
Interim Chief of Police Chuck Walerius said there's usually an annual increase at the end of the year because of gift giving. But he said last month's shooting in Newtown, CT, where 20 children and six adults were killed by a man armed with semi-automatic weapons, and the subsequent heated discussion of stricter gun laws, likely increased the numbers even more locally and elsewhere.
“There’s no doubt that from that shooting and some of the other ones that have happened recently that people are in fear of the government banning assault rifles,” he said.
And while assault rifles and handguns are quite different, Walerius said gun enthusiasts may believe if assault rifles are banned again, what's next?
“I think people are getting permits to purchase before the government (may enact) restrictions," he said.
In the days after the Newtown shooting, Rice and Dakota counties saw a big uptick in applications for permits to carry a pistol.
Rice County issued 307 permits to purchase a handgun in 2012, with nearly 20 percent of those coming in December. The county issues those permits to Rice County residents who don't live in a municipality. In 2010, the first year in which the county kept a record, the county issued 156 permits to purchase a handgun. That number increased to 214 in 2011.
Number of Permits to Carry a Handgun Issued in Rice County Since 2007Year Number of Permits Issued 2007 97 2008 249 2009 263 2010 157 2011 189 2012 334
Number of Permits to Carry a Handgun and Permits to Purchase a Handgun Issued in Rice County in 2012
Permit to Carry
Permit to Purchase
Last year the county issued 334 permits to carry handguns, not including permit renewals, according to data from the Rice County Sheriff’s Office. In 2007, Rice County issued 97 new permits. The number of permits spiked in 2009 with 263 issued before declining in 2010 to 157. Permits issued increased to 189 in 2011.
In may, Rice County Deputy Chief Dave Stensrud and other law enforcement officials attributed the early 2012 increase partly to uncertainty in federal politics and who would control the White House and Congress following the 2012 elections.
Need for a change?
Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said the county received 56 requests the Monday and Tuesday after the Newtown, CT 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 (in permits issued)," he said.
Rice and Dakota counties aren't unique; permit requests were up throughout the state in the days that followed the shooting and requests in Hennepin County more than doubled, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Number of Permits to Carry a Handgun Issued in Dakota County Since 2007Year Number of Permits Issued 2007 455 2008 948 2009 1,217 2010 1,076 2011 1,407 2012 2,814
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 told Patch. “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.
Gun rights, politics and fear aside, Rice County's Stensrud said in May that he thinks residents just might be more educated on the issue than in years past.
“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.”