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04-03-07, 12:20 AM #1
Results of what happened with the crime rate, with Minnesota's new CCW law
Tens of thousands more Minnesotans licensed to carry handguns in public haven't turned the state into the Wild West shootout that gun-control advocates warned of. But they also have not done much to curb violent crime, a benefit that many gun-rights proponents predicted when the state's permitting law was liberalized.
Between 2002, the year before the law was changed, and 2005, the most recent year for which state figures are available, Minnesota's violent crime rose 13 percent.
The 174 crimes committed by permit holders, according to a recent state report, represent only a tiny fraction of the surge, which experts say owes more to demographic trends and gangs.
Only 23 of the crimes by permit holders involved a pistol.
Meanwhile, the single "lawful and justifiable" use of a firearm reported among Minnesota's 42,189 permit holders over the past four years did not involve self-defense or efforts to stop a crime, but rather a Wabasha County man who drew complaints about target shooting near someone's property but faced no charges.
"There was an awful lot of hype on both sides before the law passed," said state Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion. "It just hasn't materialized. I never believed there'd be a decrease in crime because people carry guns."
Sheriffs, who are issuing hundreds of new handgun permits each month, agree that the law's impact on public safety, which ignited intense debate for years leading up to its passage, has been negligible.
"Except for one domestic assault, we've had no incidents either way," said Dakota County Sheriff Don Gudmundson, an early critic of the law.
He offered a possible explanation: As gun owners become more experienced, they carry their weapons less often. "They're too hot, too cold, too heavy," he said. "Most off-duty cops are not armed."
But some Minnesotans are toting guns -- and firing them. The state Department of Health has recorded a sharp rise in injuries and deaths from assaults with firearms since 2003. In the five years before that, such casualties averaged 172 a year in Minnesota. In the next three years, the average was 327, capped by a record 395 in 2005.
Much of the bloodshed has centered in Hennepin County, where the one murder by a Minnesota permit holder occurred outside a Minneapolis bar in 2005. Zachary Ourada of Minneapolis shot Billy Walsh, a bar bouncer, four times in the back after Walsh ejected Ourada from Nye's Polonaise Room for being a drunken nuisance. Ourada is serving 36 years in prison.
The vast majority of permit holders are not causing such tragedies, proponents of the new law point out.
"Permit holders really are very safe people," said Michael Martin, a Woodbury software business executive who holds a handgun permit and teaches firearms courses on the side. "They are more likely to avoid dangerous situations and walk away from trouble. But I'm pleased that the law does allow me to defend myself."
Cause and effect?
For decades before 2003, many Minnesota police chiefs and sheriffs used their discretion to keep a tight clamp on the number of permits they issued. In the Twin Cities area especially, most applicants had to show an occupational hazard to become licensed, such as private security work or carrying large amounts of cash.
At the end of 2002, about 12,000 Minnesotans held handgun permits, most of them outside the metro area. The Personal Protection Act of 2003 changed that. It guarantees access to a handgun permit to any adult who pays a $100 fee, gets prescribed training and passes a background check.
Gun-control advocates see links between more gun permits and rising violence.
"Buying and carrying more handguns does not improve public safety, and it weakens civil society," said Heather Martens, president of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota.
Gun-rights champions see things differently. "There's really no connection," said Joe Olson, president of the Gun Owners' Civil Rights Alliance and chief drafter of the 2003 law. "Violent crime tracks with the numbers of males 18 to 26. We're having a bump in that group at this time."
Last edited by Terminator; 04-03-07 at 12:23 AM.
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