Minnesota firearms sales and requests for permits to carry guns are on the rise after last week's mass shooting in Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 28 people including the gunman.
Some local gun sellers say the shooting has prompted customers to buy guns for personal safety as well as protection against possible future gun restrictions.
The holiday season is already a busy time for gun stores. According to statistics from the FBI, requests for background checks for gun buyers reach their peak between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But other factors fuel rapid gun sales.
John Munson, owner of Bill's Gun Shop, says business at all three of his stores in Robbinsdale, Circle Pines and Hudson, Wisconsin has jumped significantly since the mass shooting in Connecticut last week.
"I haven't even had a chance to sit down and quantify it financially, or even the number of firearms or products that's sold, but I can tell you I go down to the counter and I got three people in line waiting for me," Munson said. "And that goes for everyone on my staff. Twelve hours a day and we're going three deep at every store."
The state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension tracks the number of requests for criminal background checks on people who apply for permits to buy and to carry guns. Statistics from the BCA show that in the five days since the Connecticut shooting 3,394 such requests were filed. In the five days immediately previous to the shooting 3,185 permit requests were filed, and in the first five days of December 4,198 requests were made.
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Carry permit requests spiked in Hennepin County, where sheriff's officials say earlier this week the office received more than twice the usual number. On Tuesday, the office received 61 applications received, four of those were permit renewals. Officials say 20 to 30 permit requests per day is normal. However, an official in St. Louis County said it has received fewer requests for permits in the days since the Connecticut shooting compared to the same period of time last year.
Munson said he believes the shooting is responsible for the spike of business at his stores for two reasons. He said his customers are buying guns for self-protection, and are filling up the stores' gun ranges and safety classes.
"The scheduling for our classes, our basic handgun class for example, has been through the roof," Munson said. "We're two- to three-times our daily booking for our classes because people want to learn how to use those firearms."
Munson said customers are also filling the store to buy guns they fear will soon be banned by the federal government, even guns that are not the military-style rifles often referred to as "assault weapons."
"They're buying hunting shotguns. They're buying hunting rifles, Munson said. "They're buying all the things that they've wanted to have, but they're afraid that might go away."
The horrific mass shooting in Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 children has spurred talks in Washington, D.C. about renewing the expired federal assault weapons ban, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and expired ten years later under President George W. Bush.
The ban has also sparked discussions among MPR listeners.
MPR News asked members of its Public Insight Journalism network who identify as gun owners to respond to a survey. Of the more than three dozen people statewide who have responded so far, most said they were not members of the National Rifle Association. In one response, a man said he quit the NRA after the Columbine shooting. Most respondents also said they opposed banning so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Many also said the term "assault weapon" is hyperbolic, because it refers to mere cosmetic features of the rifles.
Some gun owners said they support the renewal of the weapons restrictions. James Stromberg of Houston, Minn., is a member of the NRA, and said he owns several "long guns" that he uses to hunt.
"If you need more than two or three shots at a deer or a squirrel or whatever you're after, it's useless," Stromberg said. "The clips that hold 30 or 100 or whatever bullets — there's absolutely no reason to have those except for the military or the police."
Regardless of where respondents stood on the assault weapons ban, most expressed a desire to prevent further mass shootings. Some advocated tightening the rules which allow private gun sales without background checks. Others called for mental health screening for would-be gun buyers. These and other changes to gun laws will likely be hotly debated in the upcoming weeks.