Gun permits decrease

Published 7:36 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

Number of permits locally, statewide have dropped since 2016

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The number of permits to carry and permits to purchase issued locally significantly dropped in 2017, and law enforcement officials credit the decreases to the 2016 presidential election.

In 2017, the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office issued 223 permits to purchase, compared to 281 in 2016. Albert Lea police issued 173 permits to purchase, compared to 226 in 2016. The number of permits to carry issued by the Sheriff’s Office also saw a steep drop from 2016-17, from 687 to 404.

Police handle permits to purchase within city limits, while the Sheriff’s Office oversees permits to purchase in Greater Freeborn County and permits to carry for the entire county. Permits to purchase last for one year, while permits to carry are good for five years.

“The closer we got to the presidential election, those definitely drove the numbers up,” said Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag. “The impending election drove those numbers up for permit to carry and permit to purchase.”

“It’s of course politically-driven, and people were fearing if liberals were to assume the presidency, a lot of their gun rights would be taken away or greatly regulated, and so they wanted to get out and make their purchases before things may become illegal.”

Freitag credited President Donald Trump’s election with the drop in permits to carry and permits to purchase.

“Trump was elected, and a lot of people sighed with relief that Second Amendment rights were not going to be repealed, so the numbers dropped off quite a bit,” Freitag said.

For the three years prior to 2016, the number of permits to carry fluctuated less. 

• 2013: 390

• 2014: 292

• 2015: 351

Albert Lea police issued less permits to purchase in 2014 than 2013, but that number increased in 2015.

• 2013: 246

• 2014: 198

• 2015: 236

Freitag and Albert Lea Deputy Director of Police J.D. Carlson said more permits to carry or purchase take place following mass shootings due to fear of legislation that would either ban or restrict access to certain firearms. The United States has experienced several mass shootings in previous months, including in Las Vegas; Sutherland Springs, Texas; and Parkland, Florida. 

“It’s not significant, but enough to where you notice (there are) a little bit more applications being submitted,” Freitag said.

“The numbers kind of ebb and flow,” Carlson said. “You can kind of tell in watching the news and what is going on in the news, the next thing you know you’ll see a line of people down here in the lobby coming down to get permits to purchase.”

Freitag cited state statistics showing permit-holders committed 1,335 crimes in 2017, more than 54 percent of which were DWIs or traffic offenses.

“This is a good thing in my opinion, because this is indicative of a low number of violent crimes,” he said.

Statewide, 89 permits were suspended, 50 were revoked and 658 were denied, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“That’s good,” Freitag said. “That means we are doing our job in finding these people who are ineligible.”

He said he wants permit-holders to be vigilant for any situation they could face.

“What I want to see is people who have a permit to carry or permit to purchase, especially if they are going to carry, I want them to practice, I want them to be proficient, I want them to be up on the legalities when (they’re) carrying,” Freitag said.

Statewide, permits issued decreased from 71,156 in 2016, to 55,069 in 2017, according to the BCA. Those numbers are significantly higher than the number of permits issued in 2015 and 2014 — 44,696 and 41,493.

The counties that issued the most five-year permits in 2017 were:

• Hennepin: 7,029

• Anoka: 4,051

• Dakota: 3,535

• Ramsey: 3,429

• Washington: 3,429

There are 282,838 valid permits in Minnesota, according to the BCA.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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