While hundreds of people seeking concealed-weapon permits flooded sheriff's offices in the Twin Cities metro area Wednesday, there was only a trickle of applicants in outstate Minnesota.
The state's new handgun law makes it possible for many more people to qualify for a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public. On the first day to apply, however, the St. Louis County sheriff's office received just 31 applications. Stearns County had 10, Blue Earth nine, Carlton County three, Itasca County two and Nicollet County just one. In Cook or Lake counties, nobody applied for a permit.
"It was not at all what I anticipated, but Thursday is another day," said Sheila Ballavance, records supervisor at the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department in northeast Minnesota.
John Puglisi, a certified firearms trainer and manager of Puglisi Gun Emporium in Duluth, completed his application in less than five minutes. Puglisi said there hasn't been a spike in his gun sales, but about 40 people have signed up to take his firearms safety class.
"I think the reality is that there are just so many people that are trained at this point," he said. "There really hasn't been a mad rush. I think most people are weighing the need versus the responsibility it takes to do it."
In the past, most permits were issued by police chiefs, who had broad discretion over who they allowed to carry a handgun. Applicants had to demonstrate an occupational need or a threat to their safety. Over the years, few permits were issued in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, prompting brisk business on the first day of the regulations.
In Ramsey County, for instance, Sheriff Bob Fletcher issued about 100 permits last year. He expects that number to swell to between 5,000 and 10,000 this year.
He's redirected 10 employees to work on processing permit applications and doing background checks. If the first two days are any indication, they'll be plenty busy. The schedule is booked solid and already spilling into upcoming weeks.
Across the river in Minneapolis, Hennepin County officials decided to process applications on a first-come, first-served basis in a separate building. When the doors opened at 8:30 a.m., 42 people were waiting. By noon, more than 130 people had applied,
Over the next three years, the number of permits in Minnesota is expected to increase from 12,000 to about 90,000, according to legislative researchers and law enforcement authorities.
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