Residents flock to obtain handgun permits

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2003

Last year, Mower County issued 20 permits to carry to handguns.

Wednesday, they issued 19.

That was the first day the new law easing restrictions on obtaining a permit to carry handguns took effect, and the sheriff's office was busy.

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"They used to come in about two per month," Sheriff Terese Amazi said. "Obviously 20 per day is a little different."

The old law gave law enforcement officials final say in who got a permit. They were not issued unless the applicant demonstrated a threat to their life or an occupational need.

Under the new law, called the Personal Protection Act, a person 21 or older who has taken a safety course and passed a criminal and mental health background check can obtain a permit. People with past convictions for violent crimes are not eligible.

Proponents of the law have said it creates uniform standards for issuing permits and supports citizen's rights to self defense.

State officials have said the number of permits in Minnesota will likely increase from the current 12,000 to 90,000 under the new law. Amazi said those projections do not surprise her.

With the increase in permit holders, Amazi expects some changes in the department's business. She said along with the CD players and other items stolen from cars, weapon theft will probably increase. She said when businesses ban weapons in establishments, people will have to leave them in their car.

Leaving a handgun behind can also cause other problems.

"If it's not on a person, where is it, and who's got access to it?" Amazi said.

Gun-related crimes could increase as well, she said, and it may not be hardened criminals causing the trouble.

"People get honked at when they're in a car and if you have access to a gun, are you likely to display it?" she said.

Adding to the county's load is the reorganization of the issuing process. In the past, cities and counties split the duties of issuing permits. Now, county law enforcement is responsible for all applications. Amazi said the staff has handled the load well.

People who wish to obtain a permit can apply at the Law Enforcement Center. Permits cost $100 and include purchasing rights.

People can still acquire purchase permits without the permit to carry for $10.

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at