Graphic by Eric Johnson

Archived Story

In light of shootings, local residents are stocking up

Published 11:09am Sunday, December 30, 2012


In the past week, they have been all anyone’s talking about across the nation, and locally it’s no different.

Residents in both Freeborn and Mower counties have applied for permits to purchase handguns in much greater frequency than they have at times in the past. Jenny Grobe, in records and dispatch at the Law Enforcement Center in Austin, is seeing it first-hand. She’s scrambling to weed through the applications.

“I’ve just been swamped,” Grobe said, who handles the Mower County permit applications before they receive final approval by the sheriff. “I’ve done about 40 of them since the shooting, and I’m still in the process of getting those done.”

While the number can fluctuate widely from week to week, Grobe said, she typically sees five to seven of them per week. Freeborn County Sheriff Bob Kindler said he has seen an uptick, as well — about 10 to 15 applications a day last week. He added those can’t all just be attributed to holiday purchases, either.

On the city side of things, Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger is seeing the increase, too.

“I’ve noticed, probably since the election, that they’ve gone up significantly,” Krueger said about permits to purchase handguns.

While hunting rifles do not require such permits, handguns and assault-style weapons do.

“You need to fill out a form at the police station and do a background check and need to pass everything,” Krueger said.

After passing, a qualifier can show his or her certificate to a gun dealer and obtain his or her firearm.

Krueger added many people re-apply for such permits every year and never buy a gun. They may simply want approval when the time comes to buy a weapon.

“Just because they obtain a permit to purchase does not mean they are going to buy a gun,” Krueger said. “It doesn’t mean they are running out and buying one immediately.”

Still, wheels are spinning in many people’s heads about whether they should. At the gun stores, however, people are indeed throwing down their cash, especially on AR-15-style weapons.

“Since last Friday and today, I have sold over 150 different AR-style rifles,” said Milan Hart of Hart Brothers Weaponry in Albert Lea.

Hart believes people are worried gun laws are going to change as a result of the tragedy in Newtown, so they are buying weapons while they can get them. While Hart is keeping his prices the same, he said the run on assault rifles is boosting prices nationwide. Ammunition prices for such weapons are on the rise, as well.

“Ammunition has been completely sold-out all over,” he added.

Law enforcement officials have seen slightly more conceal-and-carry permit applications, as well, and Hart said more women are looking at conceal-type weapons.

Gun dealers and firearms instructors don’t seem worried about the potential for guns being in the hands of inexperienced handlers, though.

Certified firearms safety instructor Richard Finke from Albert Lea points to the fact that it’s never the gun’s fault.

“A person has to pick that gun up and pull the trigger,” he said.

Regardless, Hart, Finke and Krueger all urge proper training for anyone who owns a firearm.

“Obviously, you need to be able to know how to handle a firearm and be proficient with it,” Krueger said. “If you are purchasing one for the first time, I strongly suggest to go get training to make sure you know how to operate the weapon properly, take it apart, clean it. Just be responsible when using the weapon.”


Tragedies beg questions about excessive force laws

In the wake of a national tragedy in Connecticut, and slaying of two Minnesota teenagers and a police officer, many people are thinking about guns and how to potentially protect themselves.

Cases such as in Little Falls, when a man allegedly executed two teenagers burglarizing his home, and even in Mower County, when two men allegedly shot at three people on their property, have people wondering when they can use excessive force.

Minnesota’s laws are different than other states, though, and sometimes people are in the wrong when they fire their weapons but think they are properly confronting an intruder. Even firing a warning shot can be a criminal offense, as the intruder may be unarmed or may not even be an intruder at all.

“The primary criteria is you have to have no avenue of escape, and you have to be in immediate threat of great bodily harm or death before you can use excessive force,” Certified firearms safety instructor Richard Finke said, referring to Minnesota Statute 609.065, which explains justifiable taking of life. “Once the threat diminishes or ceases, you have to stop with the force you are using.”

Several weeks ago, Daniel Peterson and his son, Joseph Peterson, allegedly shot at three people who drove onto their property near Lansing. According to the Mower County court complaint, Daniel fired a shot that struck the driver’s side window and hit a woman in the jaw. In their court complaints, the Petersons made references to people trespassing on their property: “All this for us trying to get people off our property,” Daniel allegedly said after he was arrested.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi said after the arrest that firing in that situation isn’t legal, especially because the victims were trying to drive away while allegedly being fired upon. Finke spoke briefly about the Little Falls shooting in which two teenagers died after entering a man’s home, too.

“He did everything wrong,” Finke said about that suspect.

While some people may want to fire at burglars who have entered their homes, that action must be a last resort in Minnesota.

“If they’re coming to steal your 50-inch plasma TV, you can’t use a gun to shoot them,” Finke said.

Yet decisions aren’t easy to make in such predicaments. Finke, who teaches a class in Albert Lea, extensively reviews home protection scenarios and also conceal-and-carry laws. He tells his students that in the worst situation to remember this quote: “I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.”

Finke has received a consistent number of calls from people inquiring about gun safety training and those who want a conceal-and-carry license. After taking Finke’s class, students can take their conceal-and-carry permit applications to their respective county government centers where they are approved by the sheriff.

Regardless, Finke encourages anybody thinking about buying a gun to get proper training.