The number of Minnesotans with permits to carry handguns in public continues to climb.
A report released today by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that sheriffs issued 31,657 permits in 2012. That's a more than 50 percent increase over the 20,772 permits issued the previous year. Currently, more than 125,000 Minnesotans possess a permit to carry a gun in public.
Some say more people are buying guns and getting carry permits because they fear more government restrictions on firearms. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said the county saw a spike in permit applications following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed.
"I think individual citizens are concerns that someone may want to infringe upon their Second Amendment rights and restrict their access to guns as law abiding citizens," Stanek said.
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The BCA report shows that 285 people were denied permits. Of those, 207 were denied because sheriffs determined applicants were a danger to themselves or others. Thirty-six applicants, however, appealed their denial and were granted a permit. Under state law, a person denied a permit has a right to make their case to a judge. The appeals are not held in front of a jury and the records are not public.
The BCA does list reasons why applicants were denied permits. The following are examples of applicants who were initially denied and were later granted a permit after an appeal.
• An Anoka County applicant was denied because of convictions for domestic assault related disorderly conduct in 2004 and misdemeanor violation of Order For Protection in 2006; DUI in 2007; misdemeanor disturbing the peace in 2000.
• In Hennepin County, an applicant was denied because "numerous arrests for assault, weapons violations, possession of marijuana show lack of good judgment and general disregard for the law."
• In Hennepin County, "history of anger-management issues including threatening to kill an employer and domestic assault."
Stanek says he has confidence in the appeals process.
"Gun ownership is not a privilege, but a right guaranteed by the Constitution," Stanek said. "And the due process afforded within that, in terms of the appeal or the granting of a permit, goes through the courts and a judge makes a determination and we're fine with that."
Stanek also said gun permit holders are generally very responsible and law-abiding people.
The BCA reports that a small number of people with permits committed crimes in 2012. Nearly half of the 296 crimes were DWIs or other traffic offenses. A very small number of permit holders were involved with gun-related crimes.
Still, some people with permits to carry weapons have been charged with felony level crimes.
According to a complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court in November 2012. Patrea Linge, 38, was being fired from her job when she allegedly pulled up her shirt revealing a .380-caliber pistol and yelled at her supervisor, "leave me the hell alone!" She was charged with two counts of terroristic threats.
Linge's attorney, Frederick Goetz, said Linge "never lifted her shirt." He said Linge's supervisors overreacted. Goetz said Linge has a permit to carry and was well within her legal right to carry her gun at her workplace.
Currently, gun control legislation at the Capitol has not directly focused on permits to carry guns, but could have an impact. Thursday, Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, introduced what he called the Gun Violence Prevention Act which extends background checks to include private sales.
It closes what some refer to as the "gun show loophole." It would require private parties selling handguns or semi-automatic assault-style rifles to go through a federally licensed dealer who would perform the background check. A gun carry permit is not very useful if a person doesn't first have a gun to carry.