The number of people who have notified authorities they will be carrying loaded weapons in the state Capitol area has spiked since the DFL-controlled Legislature put gun-control on the agenda in the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut.
While there were 56 people filing such notifications all of last year, there have already been 148 notifications filed in the last month.
It is legal for a permit-holder to carry his or her loaded weapon into the state Capitol and most surrounding buildings -- state Rep. Tony Cornish says he is armed every day, usually with a 40-caliber Glock with a high-capacity ammunition magazine. This past week, supporters of gun-owners' rights have been a force at the nearby State Office Building, swamping committees that have been discussing background checks, bans on weapons and ammunition and other gun issues.
One member of the group, Roger Parras of St. Peter, told the legislators they were surrounded by "hundreds" of people carrying guns. The meetings were peaceful and orderly. There is no requirement that weapons be concealed and one gun-rights testifier, Rob Doar, was carrying his weapon openly strapped to his belt.
"I carry a handgun most places I go," Doar said. "The Capitol isn't any different."
People with valid permits to carry weapons can do so legally in the Capitol area by notifying the state Department of Public Safety. No permission is required -- merely a one-time notification. The names are not made public.
In all of 2012, when the pro-gun GOP held control of the Legislature, only 56 new notices were filed, according to a spokesman for the Department.
Since Jan. 7, the day before DFLers took control and began talking about responding to the Connecticut shootings, there have been 148 notices filed. More More than 50 new notices were received from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6, which includes days the hearings were taking place in the State Office Building. That is nearly as much as were received all last year.
The grand total of all notices filed -- which includes previous years -- rose from 523 on Jan. 7 to 671 on Friday.