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Minnesota firearm permit to carry applications nearly doubled in 2020

In Clay County, 410 people applied for a permit to carry a firearm in 2019; in 2020 the number was 950.

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Craig Roe teaches a concealed carry class Thursday, March 4, at the Red River Regional Marksmanship Center, West Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

ST. PAUL — More Minnesotans applied for permits to carry a firearm in 2020 than in any other year in recent history, according to Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data released this month, and local counties like Clay and Becker were among the areas showing big jumps in application numbers.

In Clay County, 410 people applied for a permit to carry a firearm in 2019; in 2020, the number was 950.

Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting said a number of factors likely accounted for that, including the pandemic and the fact 2020 was a major election year.

He said he anticipates application numbers for permits will fall back to typical levels in short order.

Empting said applicants undergo a background check and if everything comes back OK, a permit is issued.

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Other area counties showing a jump in permit applications between 2019 and 2020 and the respective application numbers for those years include:

  • Becker, 485 and 901
  • Norman, 73 and 102
  • Otter Tail, 986 and 1,473
  • Polk, 312 and 538
  • Wilkin, 75 and 124.

Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander said politics appear to influence why some people apply for a permit to carry a firearm, as it has become typical to see a rise in applications in years with presidential elections.
Glander said he doesn't ask people why they are applying for a permit but it's possible the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in why some people sought permits in 2020.

"Just from listening to people, there were definitely concerns when COVID hit and I think that, combined with an election year, just the unknown that was out there," Glander said.

Craig Roe, who conducts classes in Minnesota and North Dakota for people applying for permits to carry firearms, said he instructs permit applicants about guns and the applicable rules regarding when and where a weapon may be carried.

Rules vary somewhat by state and Roe alters his message depending on where a class is being held.

Rules cover when, where weapons may be carried

Roe said his primary aim is to make sure people understand where they can and can't carry a weapon and that when it comes to defending themselves using a firearm should be viewed as a tool of last resort, "because there are lots of rules that apply to it."

Roe said that while self-defense is the main reason people seek a license to carry firearms, another is that it simply makes it easier to transport a gun from one place to another.

He said during his North Dakota classes he stresses that in North Dakota firearms may not be carried in any publicly owned or operated building.

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"That would be buildings like courthouses and anything owned by the city and of course schools and things like that," Roe said.

As Roe prepared to conduct a recent class in West Fargo for people applying for or renewing a firearm carrying permit, one of the attendees who identified himself only by his first name, Paul, said he was there to renew his permit.

He said he was reapplying for a permit for "overall safety and peace of mind" and because a carrying permit allows him to carry weapons other than guns.

"In my case, it's more for the ability to protect yourself and carry a variety of concealed weapons," he said, adding that the latter might include things like an expandable baton.

According to the Minnesota statewide report , in 2020, 96,554 people were issued a permit to carry in Minnesota, almost double the 51,404 that received a permit in 2019.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officials said the requests in 2020 were the most they'd seen since the state enacted the Minnesota Personal Protection Act in 2003.

Twin Cities metro counties see highest numbers

The bureau reported that 101,897 applications were submitted in 2020, with most permits issued in the Twin Cities metro area. Hennepin County reported the most new permits issued last year at 11,346. Dakota, Anoka, Ramsey and Washington counties rounded out the top five counties to issue the most permits to carry.

Minnesotans seeking a permit to carry have to apply with their local sheriff's office and prove they've completed approved firearms training. Sheriffs conduct background checks on each individual to determine whether they should get a permit.

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In total, 358,897 Minnesotans had permits to carry as of Monday. Minnesota sheriffs reported that 103 permits were suspended in 2020, 36 were revoked and 968 were voided.

The BCA also reported that the state tracked the highest number of crimes convicted by permit-holders in 2020, though the vast majority didn't involve a firearm. Permit holders were involved in 3,110 crimes in 2020, according to the BCA report, of those less than 2% involved a firearm in the commission of a crime.

Forum News Service reporter Dana Ferguson contributed to this report.

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