Minnesota gun permits spiked in 2016

Gun shopper
Some observers cite mass shootings and presidential politics as reasons for an increase in permits issued to carry firearms.
Pat Sullivan | AP file

Minnesota issued more permits to carry firearms in 2016 than in any year since the state started issuing permits 13 years ago, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Wednesday.

Sheriff's departments reported granting 71,156 permits to carry firearms last year, a nearly 60 percent increase over the number of permits issued in 2015, the BCA said in its annual permit to carry report.

In previous reports, the agency has noted that sharp increases may be attributed to large numbers of people renewing permits. The state started issuing permits in 2003, when the Legislature passed the Personal Protection Act. The permits are valid for five years, so the first renewal year was 2008. Then there was another uptick in permits issued in 2013. The next renewal year would be 2018.

According to gun owners, gun rights supporters, people who study the industry and advocates for gun control, politics can drive gun sales and perhaps also boost the desire for people to want to carry guns.

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The FBI tracks the number of background checks performed for gun purchases. It is recognized as the closest indicator of gun sales, but doesn't directly indicate how many guns are sold. That's because not every check results in a sale and a person can buy more than one gun at a time.

Nationwide, there were big jumps in background check numbers in 2008 and 2012 when Democrat Barack Obama was elected president and reelected. And the gun lobby painted Obama as someone who opposed the Second Amendment. It may be that in 2016, more people went out and bought guns because they thought Hilary Clinton, another Democrat, was going to win and pass laws that would restrict gun purchases.

There are other reasons for spikes in gun sales and permit applications.

One of those jumps in gun purchases occurred after a gunman killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., last year.

Steve Dyer, an analyst who follows the firearms industry for the Minneapolis investment firm Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, said this and other mass shootings can result in spikes in gun sales, particularly for the types of guns used in the killings.

Dyer said gun lobby groups like the National Rifle Association stoke fears among gun owners that legislators will ban those weapons.

And some gun sellers have said they see people coming to buy firearms for themselves or their loved ones in case they were ever in a mass shooting.

The BCA report includes some basic demographic data — the age and gender of the people who got permits as well as their zip code. According to the report, sheriffs denied more than 650 permits last year. They also revoked 56 permits. People with permits committed nearly 1,500 crimes. And according to the BCA, more than 80 percent of the crimes committed by permit holders were DWIs or some kind of traffic offense.