Gun Permit Requests in County Soar; Bellows Questions State's Gun Laws

Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said Thursday that Minnesota’s permit-to-carry law allows some people with serious mental health issues to acquire firearms.

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In the days after the , shooting, Dakota County has seen a big uptick in applications for permits to carry a pistol.

Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said the county received 30 requests Monday and 26 Tuesday—about three times higher than the seven-10 applications processed in a typical day.

"We have the staff to handle" the upsurge in applications, Bellows said. But what does worry him is the fact that some of the people applying for permits may have serious mental-health issues. And under current law, there's nothing he can do about it.

“Since 2008, we’ve seen a significant increase from year to year, and this year is going to be the highest year ever,” Bellows said, predicting that the county would end up processing more than 2,500 applications in 2012, more than 70 percent greater than 2011.

Dakota County isn't unique; permit requests were up throughout the state in the days since last Friday and requests in Hennepin County more than doubled some days early this week, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

'Time after time after time after time, they’re young males and they have a history of mental health issues, and they’re not always involved in the court system.' - Sheriff Dave Bellows

Bellows said that only about 1 percent of all applications in Dakota County are rejected because Minnesota’s carry law doesn’t allow local law enforcement to look at applicants’ mental health records other than their criminal history.

“When you look at the mass shootings that occur time after time after time after time, they’re young males and they have a history of mental health issues, and they’re not always involved in the court system,” he said.

“I know that this is going to upset a lot of people, but if we’re trying to be effective in really screening the people who should not have weapons, there are a lot of people that were committed by their families as adolescents, or even as adults, that we won’t necessarily know have had mental health issues because it didn’t involve the courts.”

In Eagan, police have seen a more than 35 percent increase in mental health-related calls over the past five years. Suicide calls were up 65 percent in 2011 compared with 2007, and overdose calls had more than doubled, Eagan Patch reported in November.

Minnesota’s carry law has been on the books since 2003, though it was struck down by the courts in 2005 on a constitutional technicality before being reinstated by the legislature later that year.


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