Handgun permit fears fail to materialize
7/19/2008 6:50:01 AM
By Heather J. Carlson
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
A mother of young children. A retired corporate executive. A victim of violent crime.
Number of right-to-carry permits issued from 4/28/2003 to 12/31/2007
County Number Rate per 1,000
Dodge 166 8.5
Fillmore 160 7.6
Goodhue 387 8.4
Houston 246 12.6
Mower 233 6.1
Olmsted 1,140 8.2
Wabasha 287 12.8
Winona 487 9.8
Total valid permits in Minnesota: 51,347
Source: Minn. Bureau of Criminal Apprenhension
These are just some of the people seeking permits to carry handguns whom Sue Bierly has trained at the Minnesota Southern Sportman's Club in Rochester.
"They come from all walks of life and professions," said Bierly, a National Rifle Association certified trainer.
It has been five years since lawmakers approved a measure allowing easier access to handgun permits. With the permits issued the first year set to expire this year, area sheriffs' offices are seeing a rush of residents seeking to renew them.
Meanwhile, Olmsted County Sheriff Steven Von Wald said his staff reports seeing more first-time applicants, something he said could be linked to news reports of gang activity and shootings.
"We're busier than the devil again right now, because it is five-year renewal time, and we've also got more people applying for it. I think the news in the community frankly has something to do with it," Von Wald said.
Fierce debate surrounded lawmakers' approval of the gun permit law in 2003. Opponents rallied against the measure in Rochester's Peace Plaza, arguing it would lead to more gun violence and crime. Meanwhile, supporters contended that carrying a handgun is a Constitutional right that would help deter crime.
An incident at this year's Fourth of July celebration in Rochester brought the issue of handgun permits back into the headlines. A 25-year-old man with a permit to carry a handgun is accused of pulling out a handgun while thousands gathered at Silver Lake for the fireworks show. The man told authorities he was concerned about a car driving through the crowd and thought it had hit someone before striking a tree. He since has been charged with a gross misdemeanor of dangerous weapons -- intentionally pointing a gun.
Should residents be concerned about handgun permit holders? Local authorities say no. Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson said the July Fourth incident is the only case he can recall since the law was passed where a crime was linked to the handgun permit law.
"I think the fears and concerns didn't materialize, and I don't think (the law) has had a significant impact on crime, frankly, one way or the other," Peterson said.
One thing is for sure -- interest in the handgun permits has proved to be far less than initially projected. Official legislative reports estimated that 90,000 handgun permits would be issued statewide within three years of the law passing. In 2007, 51,347 permits statewide had been issued, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. In Olmsted County, 1,140 permits had been issued through 2007, meaning less than 1 percent of county residents has a right to carry a handgun.
"It is not a situation that most of our population is armed," Peterson said. "Most people don't see the need to carry a gun in public still, which I think is a good thing."
For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Permit to Carry information http://www.dps.state.mn.us/bca/CJIS/Documents/CarryPermit/PermittoCarry.html
Few incidents after 5 years of permit to carry
7/19/2008 6:55:01 AM
By Heather J. Carlson
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
For retired school teacher Jerry Nau, having the right to carry a handgun is about more than personal protection.
"It is a matter of Constitutional right number one," he said.
Three years ago, Nau applied for and received his handgun permit. And while he chooses not to carry the gun most of the time, he likes having the option. He also sees handgun permits as a way to deter crime.
"Just the presence or the showing of a firearm solves and sometimes thwarts criminal activities," the 69-year-old said.
Nau is among the more than 50,000 Minnesotans taking advantage of a state law making it easier for residents to obtain permits to carry handguns in public. It has been five years since the change took effect, ushering a new era in which businesses post signs prohibiting guns.
Even though local authorities say the handgun permits have not lead to a major crime problem, some remain concerned about the permits.
"My perspective has not changed. I am still opposed to having more people carrying guns and I personally feel that is not a way to make a person safer," said Chuck Handlon, a teacher at Century High School.
Handlon has been a vocal opponent to the permits since 2003. He collected 1,500 signatures in an attempt to get the law repealed in 2004 and participated in a Rochester rally against the measure. He applauded a court decision allowing churches to prohibit handguns on their property and argues arming residents with handguns has done nothing to reduce crime.
"It seems inconceivable that places where there are large crowd threats you are going to let people carry guns," he said.
Nationwide, only two states -- Wisconsin and Illinois -- do not have laws granting citizens the change to apply for permits to carry handguns in public. Meanwhile, the states of Utah and Alaska do not require any permits to carry a handgun, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Prior to 2003, authorities had more discretion when it came to determining who could receive a permit to carry a handgun. In 2002, only 141 individuals in Olmsted County had been granted a permit. Since the law passed, eight times as many residents have a permit.
Much ado about nothing?
When Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson first heard about a the handgun permit proposal, he was worried.
"Yes, I did have concerns at the time. I didn't think that was necessarily a good idea," he said.
Peterson, along with some other law enforcement agencies, was concerned that the new law could put officers' lives at risk. Suddenly, a routine traffic stop or domestic situation could turn into an armed conflict.
But five years later, Peterson said those concerns have proven to be unfounded.
"We didn't see an increase in call volume. We did not seen an increase in gun-related calls because of the legislation," he said.
Peterson chalks the minimal impact to two things -- fewer people than expected apply for permits and those carrying handguns proving to be responsible.
Olmsted County Sheriff Steven Von Wald said he and former Sheriff Steve Borchardt were actively involved in helping craft the handgun permit legislation. Both testified before legislative committees arguing for the importance of requiring firearm training and thorough background checks. Those measures put Von Wald at ease.
"These guns are being purchased legally and being carried legally," he said. "The kinds of people that go through that process are not the ones that commit crimes."
Getting a permit
To apply for the $100 permit, adults 21 and older are screened for mental health problems and criminal background checks. They then must complete firearms training from a certified instructor. Residents renewing a permit must attend another firearm course.
Every month, Sue Bierly helps lead classes in basic handgun safety at the Southern Minnesota Sportman's Club. The10-hour courses includes tips for safe gun handling and target practice. Before students can graduate, they must fire at least 80 rounds of ammunition with every bullet hitting targets at difference distances.
All attendees also get a warning on the legal responsibility of carrying a weapon from Dave Johnson. The former Kasson police chief and owner of Manland Guns says he drills into students that just because they have a permit to carry a gun does not mean they have the right to use it. Weapons should only be used in a situation where serious bodily harm or death are imminent.
"Burglary, unless you are being assaulted, is not a deadly force issue," Johnson said. "You can't shoot the guy because he's walking out with your plasma TV."
It is a stern warning that has caused some students to question whether they want a permit, Bierly said.
"We've had some (students) afterwards say, 'Gee, that really makes me wonder if I want to carry.' They realize there is a huge responsibility there," she said.
Over the past five years, Von Wald said he has only revoked a handful of permits from gun carriers convicted of crimes. He said someone on his staff makes sure to perform annual background checks on permit holders to make sure nothing has been missed. He said the far bigger concern is people who have guns and no permits.
"The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of guns out there, and if you think that somebody that is selling drugs or is involved in gang activity or involved in robbing people or stealing things is worried about having a permit to carry, it's probably not on their list of priorities," he said.
A deterrent to crime?
But while local authorities say there is no evidence suggesting the gun permits have lead to a spike in crime, there is also no proof it has helped reduce it. While the number of violent crime in Rochester did drop by 7 percent in the city last year, the city's police chief said the crime rate is generally influenced by demographics and economic conditions. With such a small percentage of the population carrying handguns, he said it is unlikely that has had any impact on the crime rate.
He added, "As far as the overall crime rate, given the numbers (of people with permits) that problem doesn't support the line of thinking that it is creating a significant difference in our community."
This is VERY true. Only having a very teeny tiny portion of the population with permits and ACTIVELY carrying is not going to affect crime in areas that are already over run with criminals.
If iNuh parachuted into north Muderapolis, statistics would not change over night.
Read "More Guns, Less Crime" by John Lott. That'll give you the correct answer.
Now we just need some castle doctrine legislation to protect
our homes and family the way we should be able to.
I've noticed more crap arising from the non permit holders.Go figure.