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Dave Roepke, Published July 06 2010

North Dakota, Minnesota concealed gun permits spike in 2009

The number of concealed weapon permits issued in North Dakota and Minnesota increased sharply last year, but that trend is showing signs of slowing down.

Many observers attribute the increase of permits to worries that President Barack Obama’s administration would attempt to place further restrictions on gun ownership.

“A lot of people were saying they wanted to get their permit before the right to have them was taken away by whomever,” said Laura Ramirez of Menahga, Minn., who conducts training for gun-carry permits, including classes in Fargo. “I think that was the big push.”

In 2009, 65 percent more permits – new and renewals – were issued in North Dakota than in 2008, a jump from 3,857 to 6,352, according to statistics collected by the attorney general’s office. The number issued in 2008 had been the highest of the decade by far, with nearly 600 more issued than the previous high in 2007.

The picture is somewhat muddled in Minnesota, as 2008 was the first year that the state’s permits came up for renewal. In 2008, a total of 20,783 were issued, and in 2009, that increased to 21,944 – a jump of nearly 6 percent, according to the annual reports on permits released by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

However, the percentage of applicants seeking renewals was higher in 2008 than in 2009, 39 percent compared to 22 percent. If renewals are factored out, the jump in new permits in 2009 in Minnesota figures to be roughly 35 percent.

Ramirez and her husband, Rusty, co-own permittocarry.org, a business that conducts trainings for both Minnesota and North Dakota permits as well as those in Utah and Florida.

She said their business doubled last fall and stayed that brisk until recent months.

It’s not a solely regional phenomenon, with states such as Texas, Montana, Colorado, Utah and Idaho also seeing large increases, according to a Reuters story published June 24.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said he knows the increases are pinned by some to concerns about the president, but he can’t ask applicants why they want a permit to carry a weapon.

“It seems like we do more and more all the time, but I’m not sure why,” he said.

The number of new permits issued in Clay County rose from 51 in 2008 to 85 in 2009, a spike of 67 percent.

Jackie Babbitt, administrative assistant for Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, said the county had a blast of new applicants the first half of 2009. In the portion of the application asking why the permit is needed, she said “99.999 percent say self-protection,” but many also told her that worries about a gun-control crackdown motivated them to seek a concealed weapon permit.

Bergquist said the influx of permits hasn’t appeared to him to mean more people actually packing firearms.

“I don’t really see a lot of people carrying a gun,” he said.

Tim Pederson, president of the nonprofit Red River Regional Marksmanship Center in West Fargo, said he has had a concealed gun permit for six years, even though he feels uncomfortable carrying a weapon. He said he maintains a permit so he doesn’t have to worry about transporting guns.

“It just makes life a lot easier,” he said.

Though a U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down last week established there is a constitutional right to personal handgun possession, Pederson said he does not think the decision will tamp down the desire for licenses to carry.

“I don’t think it’s going to alleviate any fears,” Pederson said.

Ramirez said she isn’t sure it’ll have much of an effect, either.

“There’s always going to be certain groups that won’t think that we have the right to carry a gun for protection,” she said.

There are signs that the booming numbers seen last year are slowing.

Babbitt said the run on permits in Cass County has dwindled. Last year, the county issued 349 permits through the end of May. From January to May this year, just 197 were granted.

Through the end of June in Clay County, 37 new and renewed permits have been given out – which puts the county on pace to be well below the 107 total permits issued in 2009.

No statewide 2010 figures are available in Minnesota, but in North Dakota, 2,284 permits have been issued through June 24. At that rate, the state’s 2010 permit figures will drop by about 25 percent from last year.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535