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Last year, 38 Minnesotans successfully appealed their denial or revocation of a permit to carry a handgun. This is despite some of them being denied permits for reasons such as having active orders for protection filed against them, histories of drug crimes or assaults, or numerous arrests.
That's according to the 2012 permit to carry report released today by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Thanks to the BCA providing the Star Tribune some of the information early, we've already reported on permits issued last year (a record 31,657), and the number of crimes by permit holders and justifiable uses reported, (though we now know those numbers are too low). And we did a story on permit applicants who were initially denied, only to get those permits on appeal up to 2011.
What we didn't have was the 2012 appeal information until today, which shows that last year of the 252 applicants initially denied, 61 of those appealed. Of those, about 62 percent were successful. Some of those permit holders were initially denied for reasons like:
While the permit-to-carry statute requires sheriffs departments to report denial reasons, it doesn't require providing information on why an appeal was successful. The reports also don't provide the name of any permit applicant, which is protected by state law. Since 2003, 337 applicants have successfully appealed their denial, seeing about a 50 percent success rate.
Click here for a sortable database of all of the permit to carry denials and appeals since 2003, collected from the BCA reports.
Numerous Star Tribune stories on gun permits have cited numbers on permit holders who have been convicted of crimes.
On Monday, for example, we reported that since 2003, permit holder have been convicted of 124 crimes using a pistol, including 19 for assaults, 10 for carrying under the influence, six for drug-related crimes and one for a homicide.
Those numbers are likely far too low.
The Minneapolis Police Department hasn't been providing those numbers to the agency responsible for reporting the data, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, even though the department is required to do so by law. (see Subd. 20).
In the Sunday story, Minneapolis Police acknowledged not reporting the number of justifiable uses of firearms by permit holders, including three cases from 2010 to 2011.
After I asked whether the department was reporting crimes by permit holders, Sgt. Bill Palmer of the MPD said Tuesday morning via email the department had not.
I've asked the BCA for a response on the lack of reporting crime numbers, but when I asked the agency late Friday about the lack of reporting on justifiable uses, spokeswoman Jill Oliveira responded by email, "That data is required to be submitted to the BCA under Minnesota law."
The BCA provided me last week with the 2012 numbers on all crimes committed by permit holders in advance of Friday, when the final report is due to the legislature. Combined with reports from previous years, they show that permit holders were convicted of 1,458 crimes. But again, that doesn't include Minneapolis.
I asked Palmer if the MPD would be able to update its data for the 2012 report.
"As I said on Friday we will work with the BCA and internally to ensure compliance moving forward," he replied. "I don't see that happening by Friday."
Last fall, after a deranged employee went on a rampage and killed six people at Accent Signage in Minneapolis, the police said they were prohibited by law from saying whether the now-dead gunman, Andrew Engeldinger, a had permit to carry a loaded weapon in public.
Under the state Data Practices Act, which governs what is and what is not public data in Minnesota, "All data pertaining to the purchase or transfer of firearms and applications for permits to carry firearms ... are private."
"That's very comprehensive and cold in terms of public access to data," said Mark Anfinson, an attorney for the Minnesota Newspaper Association who specializes in public record laws.
That provision would likely extend to all people who have been issued permits and gone on to commit crimes. A 2011 BCA report says since 2003 there were 1,159 crimes reported by permit holders, including 114 where a gun was used to further the crime (see page 254 of the pdf). But again, the names of those people are likely protected by the data practices act.
Anfinson said the genesis of the law, which has been in place since at least 1981, was likely to protect permit holders from people who could look up their information and steal their firearms. But because the wording "all data" is so broad, Anfinson said it applies even to criminals who have had their permits revoked, or even to the deceased.
There are some ways data on permit holders who have committed crimes can be made public: if it's revealed either in a court record, for example, or in a law enforcement investigation that's been made inactive.
And then there's a provision in the Data Practices Act (Subd. 15) that allows any law enforcement agency to release any criminal investigative data classified as confidential if the agency deems that it would be in the "public interest" to do so. Which may explain why the Oakdale police chief at least hinted that Nhan Tran, who is accused of randomly shooting and killing 9-year-old Devin Aryal Monday night, had a permit to carry a gun (though he wouldn't outright say it).
"We are comfortable that Tran was not in possession unlawfully," Chief Bill Sullivan said.
Do you think it's in the public's interest to know if criminals have been issued a permit to purchase or carry?
Update, 4:15 p.m.:To clarify, law enforcement can't report all of the gun permit information on criminals, even if they feel that doing so would be in the public's interest.
The part of the law that allows law enforcement to disclose non-public information only applies to criminal investigative data, notes Toni Beitz, a senior assistant attorney with Hennepin County. So in other words, if police find out through a criminal investigation that a suspected criminal is a permit holder and they want to release that information, they can, Beitz said.
However, if they find out that information after a conviction, then they cannot give that information to the public, no matter how much they feel it would be in the public's interest.
The rush is on to cash in on last week's revelation of a data breach by a now-former employee of the Department of Natural Resources.
A Washington County man, Jeffrey Ness, filed suit Wednesday against state officials and agencies after learning he was one of 5,000 people whose drivers license data was breached by an unnamed DNR employee. The suit, first reported by the Associated Press, seeks class-action status.
Meanwhile, an attorney in Mankato is reaching out to victims asking if they would like to make a claim. The firm, Farrish Johnson, is already pursuing a class action suit against a former Rock County employee for DVS misuse.
A Star Tribune reporter received a letter in the mail from attorney Scott Kelly with Farrish Johnson. It notes that records from the state indicate that misuse of drivers records is "rampant."
"We are looking at other agencies including the DNR where abuses occured," the letter says. "If you are interested in pursuing a claim or would like information about your rights, please feel free to contact me."
In the Rock County case, the firm found some of its 24 plaintiffs by placing an ad in the local newspaper. Kelly said Friday that they only sent letters to two people in relation to the DNR case.
After reviewing state records and filing open records requests, he believes that a minimum of 18,000 drivers records have been breached over the last three years. "Our intent is that if the Department of Public Safety and these agencies can’t control it, that we will do whatever we can to enforce the law," Kelly said.
Litigation has suddenly become rampant in breach cases involving drivers license records, ever since former St. Paul cop Anne Marie Rasmusson garnered more than $1 million in settlements from local governments after alleging DVS misuse.
That's partly because federal statutes say a court can award minimum damages of $2,500 per violation.
Not all the cases are against government entities. A Coon Rapids school bus driver is suing Capitol One Bank and a reposession company related to a breach of drivers licence records that occured in April 2012. That case is still being reviewed for possible criminal charges
Updated 2:11 p.m.
By Eric Roper
It's now fairly clear that journalists comprised several of the victims in Tuesday's data breach involving thousands of drivers license records.
The Department of Natural Resources is alerting 5,000 people that their data was innappropriately accessed by an employee who is now no longer with the agency. Star Tribune political reporter Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, higher education reporter Jenna Ross and whistleblower reporter Jane Friedmann were among those who received a data breach letter.
The letter, which came from the Department of Natural Resources, discloses the breach but offers little details about motives or the employee's name. The agency said Wednesday it could not release the complaint against the employee until there is a "final disposition" in the case (explanation here at Subd. 2 (b)), which likely means the employee is challenging the action.
Other journalists whose data was breached include Associated Press political reporter Brian Bakst, freelance writer Laura Billings (according to her husband), Pioneer Press reporter Emily Gurnon and Fox 9 reporter Dawn Mitchell.
KARE-11 reporter Jana Shortal and MSP Mag senior editor Dara Grumdahl said Friday afternoon that they also received a data breach letter.
The state's drivers license database is protected by state and federal law against access without a legal purpose.
Staff writer Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report.
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