Permits granted to carry a firearm in Minnesota surged past 30,000 last year, and few applicants were denied, state officials said Friday.
County sheriffs granted 31,657 permits in 2012, up from 20,772 in 2011, according to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA); 285 applications were denied. Some from 2012 have yet to be processed.
The latest numbers were released as politicians nationwide debate whether to enact stricter gun control laws after several deadly mass shootings in recent months. The locations have ranged from a Connecticut elementary school to a Colorado movie theater to a Minneapolis workplace.
Given their large populations, Twin Cities-area counties issued the most permits last year: Hennepin (4,761), Anoka (2,554), Dakota (2,501), Washington (1,947) and Ramsey (1,850).
Statewide, 17,240 permits were granted in 2010, 22,378 in 2009 and 21,646 in 2008, the BCA said.
As of today, the total number of valid permits in Minnesota is 125,339. Not everyone who has a permit is a gun owner.
Under Minnesota's "shall issue" law, passed in 2003 as part of a national campaign by the National Rifle Association, applicants are presumed to have a right to carry a weapon unless sheriffs can document disqualifying reasons. Since then, about 96 percent of gun-carry permit applications have been approved.
When individuals apply for a permit with their local sheriff's office, they must provide proof of approved firearms training. Sheriffs then follow a legally defined process, checking FBI, BCA and Department of Human Services records as well as their own data for information that might prompt a denial. Individuals can appeal a denial.
Minnesota's permit holders have committed at least 1,159 crimes since 2003, including 114 in which a gun was used, according to the BCA.