(FOX 9) - A record number of Minnesotans got permits last year to carry a firearm, according to an annual report from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
A total of 96,554 permits to carry were issued, mostly by local sheriffs. That is a 67 percent increase over previous years.
The trend is being fueled, in part, by recent civil unrest, according to gun sellers and law enforcement.
At Get Guns Now in Oakdale, they’ve seen the gun rush first-hand.
"People are scared," said owner Richard Bean, who noticed the increase after the riots following the killing of George Floyd.
"Mass rushes of people are buying what they can for home protection and safety," Bean said.
John Johnson lives with two teenage daughters and a fiancée. He thought about buying a handgun for years, but the recent civil unrest was the breaking point.
"The rioting at the (U.S.) Capitol was something just bizarre," Johnson said.
In the last two weeks, the FOX 9 Investigators have surveyed sheriffs in the seven-county metro and discovered the spike in permits to carry.
Leading the pack, the Hennepin County Sheriff issued 12,029 last year, a 72% increase over the five-year average. 225 permits were denied. That too was all time high as well.
That trend continued across the metropolitan area with Ramsey County (6,519 permits, up 85 percent), Washington (6,009 permits, up 73%), Dakota (7,857 permits, up 103%), Scott (2,442 permits, up 104%), Carver (1,833 permits, up 68%) and Wright counties (3,549 permits, up 80%), all reporting dramatic increases over previous years’ averages.
The data may differ slightly from numbers in the BCA report because the FOX 9 Investigators data is more up to date.
Detailed data provided by the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office offers an interesting insight into what may be creating the gun rush. Anoka County issued 6,279 permits last year, a 100 percent increase.
The initial spike occurred in March 2020, just as the pandemic was reaching Minnesota.
But permit applications exploded after the civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd in the last week of May. In June, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office issued 864 permits to carry a weapon, which is four times the monthly average for June.
Anoka County Sheriff Jim Stuart said in a statement for the FOX 9 Investigators, "The regional unrest and violence seems to have inspired many more people to purchase and carry weapons, some for the first time in their lives."
State Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) believes paranoia is fueling the gun buying and carrying spree.
"I’m not aware there were riots and threats in Anoka County," Latz said sarcastically.
"It’s not based on any real threat, just perception that those people may come out of the core city and pose a threat to us but there’s nothing to back that up," Latz said.
He points to CDC statistics that show 79 percent of all firearm deaths in Minnesota are due to suicide.
Senator Latz has introduced a so-called ‘Red Flag’ bill this week, that would allow law enforcement or family members to get an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) from the courts to remove firearms if someone is a risk.
Another bill Latz authored would give law enforcement the ability to deny a gun permit, even if the person doesn’t have one of several disqualifying offenses.
"This provision would allow law enforcement to act on their own knowledge. And I would hasten to add anyone who is denied has the right to challenge that denial in court," Latz said.
But similar gun control measures never made it out of committee last year, Latz admits.
The BCA report said Sheriffs reported 1,191 permits were denied and 103 were suspended in 2020.
Minnesota sheriffs reported that individuals with permits to carry committed 3,110 crimes in 2020. It is the highest number since the Personal Protection Act was passed in 2003.
But the BCA report noted that less than 2 percent of those crimes involved the use of a firearm. The majority, 51 percent, were DWI’s or traffic offenses.
In Minnesota, 358,987 people currently hold valid permits to carry firearms.
Number of permits to carry issued in the last six years:
2020 - 96,554
2019 - 51,404
2018 - 66,053
2017 - 55,069
2016 - 71,156
2015 - 44,696
Five counties that issued the most permits in 2020:
Hennepin - 11,346
Dakota - 7,754
Anoka - 7,326
Ramsey - 5,990
Washington - 5,679