Record number of new gun-carry permits in 2021 led by surge in Twin Cities

Polls point to violent crime and public safety as a top issue on Minnesotans’ minds. But there’s another indicator that law enforcement officials say confirms how seriously residents statewide consider the threat from the current crime wave — the number of permits to carry a firearm approved last year.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s new report reveals some 106,000 Minnesotans were granted a permit to carry a gun by the sheriff in their county in 2021, a new annual high that broke the previous record of 96,000 set the year before and double the number issued in 2019. It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on, according to Forum News.

The surge in permits coincides with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a rise in violent crime as well as recent political and social unrest in the U.S.

Higher crime and a shortage of police officers in Minneapolis have also made more people interested in carrying guns for self-defense said Rob Doar, senior vice president for government affairs with the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, a gun rights lobbying group.

“I think that people are becoming more aware — just looking at what’s in the news, looking at what’s happening in our own state — that at any given moment they could be in a situation where they need to defend themselves,” he said.

The increase in demand for permits to carry occurred statewide. But the highest number of new permits came in Hennepin County, ground zero for the state’s increase in carjackings, homicides and other violent crime.

In 2021, Hennepin County, the state’s largest with a population of 1.2 million, issued 16,888 permits — more than any other county. That’s up from more than 11,000 the year before and approaching three times the roughly 6,000 the sheriff issued in 2019. Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka and Washington counties — the state’s next biggest counties — made up the other top five permit issuers.

The dramatic uptick in permits to carry presents itself in a snapshot of counties from around the state, including Olmsted, St. Louis, Clay and Beltrami counties. All four show big increases in the overall number of permits issued each year since 2017. Largely rural Polk County, home to East Grand Forks on the North Dakota-Minnesota border, issued 281 permits in 2017. In 2021 the county issued 690.

The total number of current permit-to-carry holders in Minnesota now stands at 387,000 residents scattered throughout the state. And the wide variety of permit holders will disappoint anyone expecting to stereotype them.

The overall number of people getting permits isn’t just up, either, Doar said — they’re younger and more diverse. Doar, who teaches permit to carry classes, says the number of women and racial minorities he sees seeking permits has grown. Annual BCA permit reports show more people ages 21-29 are applying as well, he said.

Based on the permit numbers in the new BCA report, nearly 7 percent of all Minnesotans now hold a valid permit to carry a firearm. And the figure would be even higher if it were limited to the adult population eligible to apply for a permit to carry a firearm. That reality should be enough to convince the most hardened criminal to think twice without anyone having to pull a trigger.