The number of Minnesotans with permits to carry pistols in public continues to rise, but the pace slowed dramatically during the first year of the Trump administration.
The number of Minnesotans with permits to carry pistols in public rose about 6 percent in the past year to about 283,000, as of March 1. That's up about 6 percent over the year. But that's less than a third of the 22-percent growth rate the year before.
Bill Hutton, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association and a past Washington County Sheriff, said it's the change in gun politics. Hutton said requests for permits to carry soared when there was a lot of discussion about restricting guns
"I would see more individuals at the sheriff's office than normal making application for a permit to carry," he said.
And when talk about gun restrictions waned, "those lines or individuals requesting permits would lessen."
The party in the White House can also influence demand for guns and permits.
"Believe it or not, Democrats sell more guns than Republicans do," said John Monson, who owns Bill's Gun Shop and Range which has five stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. "Under the Obama administration, there was constant talk, saying they were going to do things about the second amendment, purchasing, rights, background checks, mental health. And every time we talk about that, the industry takes off. When Hillary didn't get elected, it was like turning the faucet completely off."
Gun makers were left high and dry. Remington Outdoor Company plans to file for bankruptcy next week. Other big gun makers have seen their share prices drop at double digit rates from their peaks over the past year.
But the mass school shooting in Parkland Florida may revive demand for guns and permits. The killing of 17 students and teachers has fueled a forceful push for gun control nationwide and in Minnesota. But this time corporate America has not stood on the sidelines. Retailers are voluntarily restricting sales. Many companies rescinded marketing deals with the National Rifle Association.
Even so, a pair of bills designed to further restrict gun sales and possession are indefinitely on hold at the state Capitol. Earlier this month, a Republican-led House committee voted largely along party lines to halt discussion. But with emotions about guns running high, it's increasingly likely that the issue will spill into the fall campaign.
Joseph Olson, who leads the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance in Minnesota, predicts demand for guns will rebound in the current climate.
"Nothing gets people out to protect their rights like a threat to those rights," he said. "They're going to call their legislator. They're going to call their congressman. They're going to write letters, going to show up at the capitol and they're going to go and get carry permits."
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