Local applications for handgun permits being put on hold

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2003

Albert Lea residents looking to purchase a handgun will have to wait longer than they may have expected &045; and it may cost them more than they had hoped.

Though Minnesota’s new conceal-and-carry law took effect on Wednesday, the results have yet to be felt in Freeborn County, where a lack of state-required resources has delayed the ability of the sheriff’s office to institute the changes demanded by the bill.

The state has failed to provide the county with a stock of handgun permit application forms, though copies can be viewed online, said Sheriff Mark Harig. In addition, the sheriff’s office is waiting to be supplied with new gun permit cards, which are different from the previous versions and must be obtained from the state.

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The cards must also be laminated, something the sheriff’s office cannot currently do.

&uot;It is out of our hands now,&uot; Sheriff Mark Harig said. &uot;We’re at a standstill until the products are in.&uot;

Supply is not the only problem stemming from the new law. The legislation could bring on a heftier cost to prospective handgun owners, who will have to pay more for their permits than the county previously charged.

The state of Minnesota will now charge $21.50 for each permit, which is added to the local cost. Criminal checks most also be performed annually on each permit holder, something that will add to the price, Harig said. Though only a county board can set a final figure, Harig estimates that the cost of a permit may soar as high as $100, the current price in Minneapolis.

Still, Harig is waiting for things to be sorted out.

&uot;This time next week we hope to be up and running,&uot; Harig said.

The delay appears to be sending few ripples through Albert Lea, where conceal-and-carry permits have been rare. In 2002, only 93 people were registered to carry a handgun in Freeborn County, and so far this year 40 people have applied for permits, mostly as renewals. And while legislative researchers expect the number of permits to swell from 12,000 to 90,000 statewide, the sheriff’s office has only registered three inquiries since the law took effect.

But at least one person in Albert Lea appreciates the new legislation. Resident Dave Weckwerth works as a teacher for Plus P Technology, a company that provides training and certification for prospective handgun owners. With the conceal-and-carry law in effect, such certification classes are mandatory, and Weckwerth is hoping that will translate into more business.

&uot;I would like to hold the classes weekly,&uot; he said. &uot;Right now it is a little less, depending on demand.&uot;

Currently, local instructors are few and far between, and registration fees can be costly. Weckwerth’s certification class will run a student $130, a price that is separate from the permit fee.

At Hart Brothers Weaponry, off Highway 69, interested shoppers browsed the racks of hunting rifles, but few expressed interest in purchasing smaller versions.

&uot;There’s been a lot of talk about the new law,&uot; said Milan Hart, the owner of the store. &uot;But not much about buying a weapon.&uot;

Hart expects most of his new sales to be in holsters and accessories, and not in new firearms.

&uot;People feel safe in this county,&uot; Hart said.

&uot;We have a good police force. Not many people feel the need to carry a gun.&uot;