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Sheriff Questions State's Laws as Gun Permit Requests Soar in Dakota County

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.

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.

"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," Bellows 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," he said.

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.

Bryan Strawser December 22, 2012 at 01:49 PM
The sheriff's statement about screening for mental health records above is inaccurate. Minnesota 624.714 *requires* the sheriff to check such records. See the relevant portion of the statute below: "Subd. 4.Investigation. (a) The sheriff must check, by means of electronic data transfer, criminal records, histories, and warrant information on each applicant through the Minnesota Crime Information System and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The sheriff shall also make a reasonable effort to check other available and relevant federal, state, or local record-keeping systems. The sheriff must obtain commitment information from the commissioner of human services as provided in section 245.041 or, if the information is reasonably available, as provided by a similar statute from another state."
Bryan Strawser December 22, 2012 at 01:52 PM
In addition, the Sheriff has full authority to decine to issue a permit if the Sheriff believes that a person may be a danger to themselves or others. Again, MN 624.714 states: "(3) deny the application on the grounds that there exists a substantial likelihood that the applicant is a danger to self or the public if authorized to carry a pistol under a permit." The Sheriff may later be required to defend this decision in court - but under the statutes, he has the authority to do what he's claiming above he can't do...
Evan December 22, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Further, the Sheriff having to defend such a decision in court is a desirable thing. Deprivation of the constitutional right to bear arms or any other right *should* be subject to the due process of a judicial review.
Rob Doar December 22, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Wow. Bellows is either a liar, or ignorant of the law. I'd like to know which one.
Mike Martin December 22, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Remember Bellows was not in favor of the Minnesota Personal Protection act to begin with. He was one that said that it would cost his depearment too much money and man power to administer the flood of applications that would come in. He went on to say that the law would put his deputies and other local officers at greater risk because there will be so many guns on the street.
Pete Svenningsen January 08, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Should a person be barred for life from their birthright after an experience with the mental health system? Mr. Bellows is doing yeoman's work in frightening away those that might need help from seeking it. Let us not forget how the Soviets and Nazis treated and regarded mental defectives, real or imagined.
Pete Svenningsen January 08, 2013 at 04:49 PM
He is an intelligent man, to be certain; one needs only to look at his credentials. He knows both the law and the specified statute limits of his power. The law already grants him great directional authority.
Pete Svenningsen January 08, 2013 at 04:52 PM
edit:d i s c r e t i o n a l authority

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