Permits to carry a gun in Minnesota soared in the month of January, the state’s second largest surge since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

Since the beginning of the new year, there have been at least 221,712 active permit holders — a 6,189 increase from December 2015, according to a monthly data report from the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The largest spike was in March 2013 with 7,213 active permit holders, a few months after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and subsequent calls for national gun control measures.

A similar pattern of jumps in permit holders and applications are typically seen after prominent mass shootings, including the November Paris terrorist attacks and the December killings in San Bernardino, Calif.

In early January, President Obama announced executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence and placing new restrictions on handgun sales across the country.

Almost in reflex, there’s a run on ammunition, gun sale background checks increase, interest in and enrollment in permit classes go up, and more people get their permits, said Andrew Rothman, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance (GOCRA), which released the report Thursday.

“It’s not always a reaction to mass shootings, although there is some of that,” Rothman said. “But probably the bigger part is the reaction when people hear about the political rhetoric following a horrible murder … that’s what gets people very interested in exercising their rights.”

The number of active carry permits in the state has grown by more than 20,000 in six months. Now, about one in 19 eligible Minnesota adults have a permit to carry, according to GOCRA.

In January, Hennepin County saw 733 new permits; Ramsey County saw 299 and Anoka County saw 220, according to the BCA.

Permits are valid for five years, so the report is a mix of renewing and new permit holders.

Cmdr. Paul Sommer, a spokesman with the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, said in January 2013 — a month after Sandy Hook — there were 542 permit to carry applications. In January 2016, the Sheriff’s Office had 489 applications. They typically process about 200 a month.

“We are still getting upward of 40 applicants a day, which is well beyond our norm,” Sommer said.

Staff hours have increased and employees from other departments had to be moved to help with the growth, he said.

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, a gun violence prevention organization, said she is not surprised by the growth. An uptick in permits, she said, doesn’t necessarily correlate to an increase in gun ownership.

“An increase in permits indicates to me two things. One, many Minnesota gun owners are perfectly OK with undergoing a background check. A background check is required in order to get a pistol or pistol carry permit,” Martens said in an e-mail. “Two, a significant number of Minnesotans believe that having a gun makes them safer, and unfortunately, this is not true except in very narrow circumstances. It means we have a lot of work to do in educating the public about the hazards posed by guns..”


Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora