Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows: Ban High-Capacity Assault Weapons

Also, Sen. Al Franken will be at Dakota County school on Monday to discuss school safety.


Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said yesterday that he supports a ban on the sale of high-capacity assault weapons.

"I believe in the second amendment,” Bellows told Patch Friday morning, three weeks to the day after the Newtown, CT, massacre in which 20 children were killed. “I’ve signed, over the years, 9,000 permits to carry" firearms.

“But does the second amendment extend all the way to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines?" Bellows asked. "I don’t think it does.” 

On a separate but related note, Sen. Al Franken announced Friday that he will be at Eagan's Dakota Hills Middle School on Monday to meet "with several Minnesota educators, child advocates, and school-safety officials to discuss ongoing efforts to improve school safety."

Are People with Mental Health Problems Acquiring Guns?

In recent weeks, Bellows has expressed concern about another gun-safety issue—that Minnesota's permit-to-carry law may be allowing some people with serious mental health issues to acquire firearms. Franken has invited Bellows to discuss a partnership between the state's mental health and criminal justice systems. 

Franken is convening a meeting in St. Paul on Saturday on the issue. About 15 to 20 officials and activists, including Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and representatives from the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team are expected to attend.

“We already had this scheduled before the shooting, so it was something we were already planning to do, but now it’s taken on a different context,” said Marc Kimball, a Franken communications aide.

Bellows said he will be unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict but that he hopes to participate in future discussions.

“Fifteen to 20 percent of the population suffers from some form of mental health issues and five, six, seven percent suffers from serious mental health issues,” he said Friday. “If you look at the number we reject, which is about 1 percent, I get concerned we’re missing people who have mental health issues and should not have access to a weapon.”

Bellows said that the permit process successfully identifies applicants who have gone through the courts’ mental health system but that there is a blind spot when it comes to aspiring gun owners with serious mental health problems that have been treated in private practice.

He said that for those cases, public safety needs to trump privacy rights. 

“The issue is the people who have mental health issues that have not come into the purview of the courts and have been treated privately and now they’re out requesting a permit to carry,” he said. “We really want to be careful about people who should have permits to carry.”

Dakota County Crisis Response Unit Supervisor Brian McGlinn said that since Newtown, he hasn’t seen an uptick in phone calls from citizens concerned about people with mental health issues carrying firearms.

“We work very closely with law enforcement,” he said. McGlinn’s response unit has partnered with Lakeville police in providing a “crisis stabilization unit” that works with families with underlying mental health issues.

Gun Permits on the Rise

Bellows emphasized that an assault weapon ban is completely separate in his mind from the mental health issue.

“I know of lots of hunters who go out with an AR-15 and 30 rounds in the clip to go deer hunting—don’t know why,” he said.

Gun ownership has been suring locally; Dakota County processed 2,814 gun permits in 2012, a more than 65 percent increase over the previous year.

“We handled a couple hundred alone in the weeks after the Newtown incident,” Bellows said.

terry January 07, 2013 at 02:50 PM
Why does no one talk about the violent games our youth play to teaches them that killing is a game. As a former soldier I am convinced that these games and the ridiculous killing in our movies brings our youth to have a sick idea of the value of life. Why is it their right to view and engage in this mind changing activity with no controls. Parents who allow this are stupid and the public needs education as to what they are creating in their children when allowing them to participate in these violent games and see movies at young age that involve excitement and glamourization of killing others.
Community Member January 07, 2013 at 04:38 PM
I agree Terry. The culture of violence I mentioned in my comment above definitely includes the various violent media forms we as parents allow into our homes. Regardless of your position on gun control, at what point in our society did killing people in extremely graphic and violent video games become entertainment, as did extremely graphic and violent movies? Sure you could argue that kids use to play cowboys and Indians, play with GI Joes and little plastic army men but never whilst playing with those did they ever see the blood and gore like they do in video games and movies. Our kids could watch someone get murdered on the street and probably not be phased by it because they've seen it a thousand times before as they've either watched on t.v. or maybe even been the murderer themselves in the video games they play. I'm not going to be a hypocrite, my 15 year old son does own a few games rated M and though as a parent I do have the authority to not allow them in our home, we chose to limit his time playing them, insist he 'turns off the blood' and we talk about the games as a whole because whether we like it or not, they are a part of our culture. I could not allow them at home but they are in the home of all his friend and therefore he will be exposed to them, I could not allow him to go to his friend's homes but that would only socially isolate him, it is such a challenge for parents today to avoid exposure to these media forms so we do our best to limit exposure.
Ed Harley January 07, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Community Member I was involved with an incident that if I did not have a gun I would be dead or would have been severly beaten. I had a criminal try to pull me and a girl friend from a car shouting how they were going to kill me and my girl friend in the car. I did not have a conceal carry but I was coming home from the gun range. My girlfriend and I retreated to the backseat of the car while they broke into the front of the trying to get at us. I was able to get through the back seat to the trunk to my gun. Pulling that GUN saved two people from being severly beaten if not killed that day. We should have the right to protect ourselves and stand our ground. With your argument I would not have the basic right to protect myself by whatever means. Take it from someone who has been there. When you are in the situation you are safer to have then not have. Will you lay there and die like a dog when they come for you because that what a "good" person does?
Concerned reader January 07, 2013 at 06:41 PM
As technology has changed since the Constitution was written, perhaps we should revisit the 1st Amendment as well. There is no way the Founding Fathers could have imagined the ability we now have for instant communication across the county and the world. If people like Lanza couldn't watch all the 24/7 media coverage of people like James Holmes, they might not act themselves. Perhaps we should restrict that access and repeal, or at least re-write, some of that Amendment. (sounds silly, doesn't it?) The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting, or sport-shooting. It is entirely about we citizens having the ability to protect ourselves, family, and neighbors from all threats, foreign or domestic. That includes a tyrannical government. The framers of the Constitution intended that the government fear the ability of its people to resist and reject tyranny.
Shane January 07, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Community Member, you said "for the record, (gun deaths) are far greater than DUI related deaths." This simply isn't true. DWI death outweigh gun related deaths by far. When you look at the number of gun murders, there is an even bigger gap, and of those guns used in murders, only 4% were "assault rifles." Please, tell me how banning "assault rifles" is going to do ANYTHING to stop these horrible things from happening. Banning the mags will do nothing also. It takes a slow person 1.5 seconds to reload a magazine. If someone wants to commit murder on a mass scale, all they need to do is go to the nearest "gun free zone" and start shooting, or slashing. It doesn't matter much what he has as a weapon. Look at all the mass stabbings going on in China. All that with just a knife, or a sword. The only way to stop these loons is for a good guy to shoot them with a gun. I work in the armed security field. It isn't hard to put one uniformed, and one plain clothed armed officer in the schools. At least allow the teachers and principals to carry their own weapons into school. FACT of the matter is that in gun saturated areas, violent crime drops dramatically. More guns means less crime. It's well known, and it is disappointing that our 'Sheriff' doesn't know, or is ignoring this. We all know he is against the current carry laws, and now this? Sickening. I will never vote for him.
Charles Wooley January 07, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Shane, Amen!!! You just summarized everything I was about to write. One input to "Community Member's" Inaccurate Statement- In 2010, drunken drivers killed 13,000 people. According to the CDC there were 10,400 firearm homicides in our country. Reviewing the statistics, we find that the majority of these gun-related deaths were criminal on criminal violence or justified police shootings, not innocent people killed as is the case of a death by a DUI. You and I have a far, far greater chance of being killed by a drunken driver than we do have of being killed by a person like James Holmes, the Aurora shooter.
Charles Wooley January 07, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Please update your posting, since it is FALSE- In 2010, drunken drivers killed 13,000 people. According to the CDC there were 10,400 firearm homicides in our country. Reviewing the statistics, we find that the majority of these gun-related deaths were criminal on criminal violence or justified police shootings, not innocent people killed as is the case of a death by a DUI. You and I have a far, far greater chance of being killed by a drunken driver than we do have of being killed by a person like James Holmes, the Aurora shooter.
Charles Wooley January 07, 2013 at 07:15 PM
You are 100% correct, protect our rights
hjugtf January 07, 2013 at 10:37 PM
"I believe in the second amendment,” Bellows told Patch Friday morning" No, sir, you do not. “I know of lots of hunters who go out with an AR-15 and 30 rounds in the clip to go deer hunting—don’t know why,” he said." Because they can. And why does it matter? The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting.
Community Member January 08, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Shane, I was referring to gun homocides and they do outweigh the number of victims of drunk drivers, the drunk drivers are not victims but perpetrators and they account for approximately 2/3's of the DUI related deaths. Also, a recent report, based on data compiled from the CDC, indicates that higher levels of gun ownership result in higher numbers of gun related deaths, that same report also indicates that by 2015 gun related deaths will outweigh vehicle related deaths. But truthfully, it doesn't matter what weapon kills the most people, it isn't a race, what matters is finding ways and adopting policies that kill less people. I am a civilian just like you, I am no expert on the facts, I am just a parent who wants her children to be able to play in the yard, go to school, go to movies and feel safe. We are raising our children in a culture of violence and regardless of one's opinion on gun control we need to stop clinging to outdated ammendments, refusing to entertain the idea that there may be another way to a more peaceful society.
Community Member January 08, 2013 at 12:54 AM
My stats are from 2011 and current and from the FBI, CDC and the NHTSA so you may want to update your records. Also, to make your stats more accurate you can remove the number of drunk drivers that killed themselves by driving drunk, approximatly 2/3 of your number, as that's unintentional/intentional suicide not homocide. And to be fair I will remove justifiable homocides even though a vast number of those were because a perpertrator had a gun and I'll even remove accidental homocides even though they were caused by ... a gun. Since we both seem to find the CDC to be a credible source here's some interesting facts, according to data from the Center for Disease Control, compiled by Bloomsberg News, it is expected, by 2015, that all forms of firearm fatalities will exceed all forms of traffic fatalities. According to the report, research shows that higher levels of gun ownership leads to higher levels of gun related deaths. Truthfully, I have no interest in getting into a fact checking argument with you Charles because that isn't what this is about and let's be honest here, we can both bend the "facts" and cite different sources to suit our cause. This is about us as a society taking responsible measures to decrease the number of senseless deaths regardless of how they are caused and having the foresight to see how the decisions we make today impact our tomorrow.
Community Member January 08, 2013 at 01:19 AM
Ed, what a frightening experience that must have been and I certainly can appreciate the fact that guns can save lives, there is no disputing that, as you can attest. The question however is; do guns in the hands of civilians kill more lives than they save? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am no expert on this matter by any means but given the current culture of violence in our society today, I just believe that when it comes to gun control, we all, regardless of our opinions, need to be open to listening to and considering opposing views, it's the only way educated and responsible decisions are made. Whether your view is more guns or less guns, I think we can agree that we all share a common end goal and that is for our kids to grow up in a less violent and more peaceful society.
Community Member January 08, 2013 at 01:39 AM
Actually, no it doesn't sound silly at all if literal interpretations of the ammendments leads to absurdities such as the glamorization of criminals by the media and allowing everyone and their brother to own assault weapons.
resident January 08, 2013 at 02:53 AM
I don’t have any guns of any sort but please tell me I like to understand why anyone needs these powerful killing instruments. I understand hunting and target shooting which can be done with bow and arrow and air rifles! Then there is all this talk about the constitution and rights. Seems to me before we get to read the body of the constitution there is the preamble explaining that the intent is to make things better. For that purpose and in addition the constitution has provisions to be improved as needed. This has been done many times before with the amendments. So what is all the huff about?
Julia Michelsen January 08, 2013 at 03:32 AM
I really appreciate Dave Bellows coming forward as a Dakota County Sheriff to renounce a multiple round clip. If any of you writing comments were a sheriff who had to deal with the daily threat of gun violence you may have a different opinion. Deer hunting is a sport -the weapon should NOT require a 30 round clip. If your aim is that bad -rethink your hobby! Every Elementary school in this nation needs to stand at armed guard so you can hunt? That is one sick price you have placed on a human life. I have read similar comments on other websites, but this is extreme. For starters, "hjugtf" your comment seems to mimic far too much NRA wisdom... You quoted Sherrif Bellows saying "I know a lot of hunters who go out with an AR-15 and 30 rounds in the clip to go deer hunting - don't know why." And then you wrote "Because they can. And why does it matter? The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting." You are standing on the 2nd Amendment argument "because you can." Yes, it has everything to do with a hunting rifle. Why else would you own an AR-15? Protection from what? Many hunters have stepped forward and said they would be willing to tone down the round capacity of their hunting rifles if it meant the life of another innocent child. Community Member thank you for being the only voice of reason for the past 2 days!
Ed Harley January 08, 2013 at 01:00 PM
If it is all about being safer and looking at the stat's then YES guns do save more lives then they take in the US. Look at the actual statistics and get over the "ew that looks dangerous" knee jerk reaction. Fact: Knives kills more than guns. Fact: murder by blunt force trauma kills more than guns. In the anti-mindset kitchen knives, hammers and baseball bats are more dangerous then guns with high capacity magazines. The FBI has these stat's and I've read them from their own documents. When a crime is being committed and an idividual has brandished or used a firearm in defense far out ways the number of gun deaths. Each time this happens an innocent life is saved. Please look up the stat's the details in the math people and math works.
Community Member January 08, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Ed, not sure what stats you are looking at but FBI stats clearly show that gun murders far outnumber murder by any other weapon combined. yhttp://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl20.xls. Also, you have no basis for your statement that guns in the hands of civilians save more lives than they take and you are referencing stats incorrectly. At best, stats can only refer to gun use in the PRESUMED saving of a life in a situation that may or may NOT have been life-threatening. There is no way of knowing if a person was going to die in any given situation unless they actually died. There is no way of quantifying the data due to the variables. There are many ways to protect ourselves besides guns: lock our home and car doors, home and personal alarm systems, pepper spray, learn self defense, don't put ourselves in situations that may lead to danger such as walking on deserted streets late at night or early in the morning etc. It's a known fact that criminals look for people who are vulnerable. The best form of self-defense is not putting ourselves in situations where we might need to defend ourselves. How many potentially life threatening situations could have been avoided by not putting ourselves in potentially dangerous situations? That's not to say we aren't at risk always, as the recent mass shootings attest but there are measures we can take to avoid potentially dangerous situations so we don't need to protect ourselves.
resident January 08, 2013 at 05:15 PM
This debate started Jan 6 but in all this time no one answered the question why anyone needs these powerful killing instruments. And then there is the talk about statistics. How dose the US compare to the rest of the world? Are we slipping? Are we making ourselves a warzone? Our “accomplish nothing” “obstructionist” elected representatives and the center of this debate show we are heading that way. Are we mobilizing to kill each other?
Disgruntled gun owner January 26, 2013 at 02:03 AM
I want to know why you need a large flat screen tv when a 13inch black and white would do, why do you need an air conditioner in your car when you can roll down the windows, why do you need spices and quality farm raised organic foods when white rice would do?! This is America! The fact is that the 2nd amendment says nothing about hunting or sport shooting. It is about protection from invading countries and a deterrent to our own government from erasing our freedoms. The founding fathers realized that gvernments are prone to corruption and tyranny, without fear of uprising and rebellion, we would have lost all other amendments long ago. The fact is our current gun laws are quit good, the Authorities Having Jurisdiction are not doing their job with background checks and record keeping. In the modern age of electronic record keeping, there is no reason why we can't keep track of people that shotgunned their parents to death and later got a Bleeping permit!!! Lets maybe have the Sheriff and the BCA and the ATF do their jobs, before you take away everyone elses rights.
Lisa February 01, 2013 at 12:51 PM
I think we should ban alcohol since far more people die from alcohol related accidents and alcohol is not "necessary". Along with alcohol, cars should also go. you know how many people are hurt in car accidents and they too are not necessary after all we have spent millions on mass transit. Sugar is a must to go!! It is dangerous also and we for sure do not "need" that I want to see if Bellows and the legislators will go along with that? What is happening to the country folk?
Lisa February 01, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Do you "need" alcohol? Alcohol takes far more peoples life. Since when do you have a discussion of banning things that are not necessary. If that is the case than lets be consistant alcohol, cars, cigarettes, gambling, many over the counter medications, motorcycles, and many more things have to go! The hypocrisy of people is amazing. Let's have an logical discussion instead of an emotional discussion.
Lisa February 01, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Are you paying attention to what is happening in Chicago? Illinois has the most strict gun laws in the country and the highest murder rate. I have never owned a gun but I will alway defend peoples right to have a gun. This is a very dangerous discussion for our freedom.
Concerned citizen February 19, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Actually he's an elected Sheriff I do believe so him expressing his opinions is good I think. He signed my permit to carry also but now he wants to take away the gun I carry and pretty much any hand gun I could carry cause the laws that are being proposed would ban revolvers and semi auto's with 10 or more capacity. So the next time he's up for election I think I might have to look to his opponent who doesn't feel this way about so called "assault weapons"
Jonathan Painter July 03, 2013 at 01:10 PM
Thanks for being forthright with your opinions sheriff, I think we can agree that something needs to be done in Dakota County to make it safer for residents; Dakota County needs a new sheriff!!!!
Jonathan Painter July 03, 2013 at 01:29 PM
@Resident: It may come as a surprise to you, but our country was founded on principles of individual freedom. It was not looked upon kindly for the federal government to have access to a militia, therefore when the opportunity arose, James Madison secured the Bill-of-Rights for us in exchange for allowing the aristocrats a central bank (1791). "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." How does well regulated militia and shall not be infringed have congruety? Quite simply, the militia is subject to the civilian powers.
Jonathan Painter July 03, 2013 at 01:49 PM
While the US government already is already "infringing" on the Bill-of-Rights by denying fully automatic AR15's with suppressor's, they want to ban one trigger pull, one shot firearms, from law abiding people why? Last time I checked law abiding citizens weren't the problem. Part of the high price of freedom is giving your neighbor a chance to be free, not making him prove himself to the Federal Governmen(that can arbitrarily raise the bar for firearm ownership as high as they want, if you let them).
Jonathan Painter July 03, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Why anyone would want the monopoly of force to reside solely with a government that is beholden to corrupt and greedy corporations is beyond me. Why remove the ability of your children to defend themselves someday?
Kris Broberg July 03, 2013 at 02:47 PM
The second amendment says congress shall make no law. It does not say anything about restrictions on those with mental issues. Bragging about signing 9000 permits to carry that the law requires him to sign is no proof of his second amendment credentials.
Jonathan Painter July 03, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Here is the perspective of another law enforcement officer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SegAoSpHJck&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Terry Elliott July 03, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Some thoughts: 1. Personal ownership of rifles, shotguns, and handguns in the US began before the Revolution. This is not some modern phenomenon. Heck the NRA was founded just 6 years after the Civil War, and included both Roosevelts and John Kennedy as members. 2. I take my little Ruger ranch rifle in .223 caliber out to shoot prairie dogs. No threat there. Then I put a $30 plastic pistol grip on it and voila: it's an assault weapon! Under Bellows' regime, I would become a criminal for owning it. Even the prairie dogs know better. 3. 50% taxes on ammunition purchases, $25 taxes on buying any new handgun, taxes and fees to impose 'universal background checks'-- all this is designed to increase the cost and hassle of having a weapon and participating in shooting sports. 4. I am 100% in favor of 'universal background checks' as soon as you can get criminals to go through them. Instead, they make criminals of 55 year old men who loan a hunting rifle to a friend for the week. 5. While the trend for gun deaths is steadily declining, it becomes more apparent that we have a gang problem more than a gun problem. The US averages 4.2 gun deaths per 100,000. In Chicago it's 15.65. In New Orleans, an eye-popping 72.8. St. Louis and Baltimore look like Zimbabwe in terms of murder rates. NONE of these shooters go through ANY of the legal processes to control weapons. ZERO. 6. Where does the irresistible impulse come from to take people's rights away because of one nut in Connecticut? Why the need to "do something!" when even the authors of new legislation admit it wouldn't actually, well, do anything except infringe the rights of law-abiding sports enthusiasts and hunters and anyone who wants to protect themselves and their families.


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