Permits to carry handgun in Douglas County back to average after 2020 spike

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen says permits to carry tend to increase during election years, which he attributes to gun legislation debates.

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DOUGLAS COUNTY — The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) released its 2022 permit to carry report on Wednesday, March 1.

The report contains data submitted by Minnesota law enforcement agencies regarding applications made for handgun carry permits and data about permit holders.

Those who apply for a permit to carry or to purchase a handgun in the state of Minnesota must do so through the sheriff's office of their residing county. Sheriffs are then required by state law ( Minn. Stat. §624.714, subd. 20 (b) ) to report their data on gun permit applications, issuances and denials to the BCA.

Statewide, there was a significant drop in permits issued after "historic highs over the past two years," according to the report. Sheriffs across the state reported 70,443 permit applications in 2022. Of those, 65,257 permits were issued. The year 2020 had the highest numbers compared to the last five years with 96,554 permits issued from 101,897 applicants. In 2019, there were 53,310 applicants and 51,404 permits issued.

Top counties for permits issued in 2022

  • Hennepin - 8,637
  • Anoka - 4,696
  • Dakota - 4,532
  • Ramsey - 3,950
  • Washington - 3,865

Permits to carry are good for up to five years.
Douglas County had 727 total applicants in 2022 with 678 permits issued. Of those that were issued, 431 were new applicants and 247 were renewals. Those numbers are on par with 2018 stats which saw 726 total applicants and 689 issued permits.


According to the 2022 report, there are 4,107 permit holders in Douglas County.

Douglas County also had a spike in 2020 with 1,113 total applicants and 1,072 permits issued. Of those issued, 826 were new applicants and 286 were renewals.

When asked why he thought 2020 had an increase, Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said permit-to-carry applications tend to increase during election years which he attributes to gun legislation debates.

"It doesn't matter if it's a governor's race or a presidential race. People get concerned about which party is going to win. Typically, their concern is that the Democrats are going to win and that gun laws may change. So, they hurry to get their permit to carry or permit to purchase prior to a new administration taking over," Wolbersen said. "Right now we are seeing an increase in (permit applications) because of what is happening in Minnesota with the Legislature and the governor."

According to a Feb. 3, article by Forum Communications Company's capitol reporter Alex Derosier, Minnesota Democrats introduced a bill related to firearms that include a "red flag law, expanded background checks for firearms sales, a locking requirement, and a requirement to promptly report lost or stolen firearms."

After swift early action on abortion and climate legislation, Democrats are starting work on another of their priorities: creating new laws aimed at curbing gun violence.

"I think every citizen has a right to protect themselves. I really think it is a personal decision. Not every person should carry a firearm but it should be their decision," said Wolbersen. "I do believe in disqualifying factors. People who are mentally ill should not be carrying firearms. People who have a history of violent crime should not be — legally — carrying firearms. The disqualifying factors that are currently in place to me seem in line with what they should be. But, I personally believe that anyone who feels they are capable of responsibly carrying a firearm should be able to."

Wolbersen added that he hopes a middle ground can be reached that works for both sides of the political aisle.

Not all those who apply will be issued a permit. BCA's report says, "Sheriffs then must follow a statutorily-defined process, checking FBI, BCA and DHS records as well as their own data for any disqualifying information. Individuals denied a permit have the right to appeal the denial."


Of the 727 total applications submitted to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in 2022, six were denied, one was suspended and 42 were pending at the time of the report. Wolbersen said the disqualifying factors are violent criminal activities, from sex crimes and assaults to homicides. A suspension will happen when the permit holder is charged with a crime. If the holder is found guilty, it will result in a lifetime cancellation of their permit. Denials happen when an applicant has a disqualifying factor found during the background check required to achieve the permit.

Sheriff Troy Wolbersen

Wolbersen said those with no disqualifying factors to possess a firearm do not need a permit to carry when using it on their private property or to transport a firearm in their vehicle — although, in that instance, the firearm needs to be unloaded, cased and locked. The permit to carry is only required when an individual leaves their property with a loaded handgun on their person.

Crimes committed by permit holders

According to the BCA report, 4,199 crimes were committed by permit holders in 2022—the highest number since the state's Personal Protection Act was enacted in 2003. However, the percentage of permit holders who committed a crime — 1% — was consistent with recent years. Just over 3% involved firearms; DWIs or other traffic offenses made up more than 60% of the crimes; 15% were from the “other" category — stalking, rioting, city ordinance violations and DNR hunting, fishing and recreational vehicle violations.

Alex Derosier's reporting contributed to this article.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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