To Reporters’ Horror, Minnesotans Following the Law

Uh oh. The People of the Gun have the folks at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune alarmed again. This time it’s reporters Brandon Stahl and Jim Ragsdale soiling themselves over the fact that Minnesotans can actually appeal a sheriff’s denial of a permit to carry application. Worse — as far as they’re concerned — is that deciding the ultimate appeal isn’t up to the sheriff, but a judge. Worst of all is the fact that those judges make the sheriffs back up their denials with actual facts and evidence. The horror . . .

LEOs used to have unfettered discretion to issue or deny permits based on (among other things) need. That led to such luminary moments as one former Chief declaring (paraphrasing here) “I don’t care if you are being chased down the street by a madman with a bloody knife; as far as I’m concerned, no civilian will ever have the ‘need’ for a permit.” Under the Personal Protection Act, though, applicants who meet certain objective criteria must be issued a permit, unless, that is:

…there exists a substantial likelihood that the applicant is a danger to self or the public if authorized to carry a pistol under a permit.

But the sheriff must tell the applicant in writing why they were denied and be prepared to back their reasoning up with facts and evidence. Under the law,

Minnesotans with histories of assaults, weapons violations, domestic violence and narcotics offenses are regularly denied a permit to carry a loaded firearm because sheriffs consider them a threat to themselves or the public.

Yes, that’s true; people who are ineligible do apply for permits. In 2011 alone there were 247 denials, or about 3.7% of applications. Oddly enough, Ramsey County (where the city of Saint Paul is located) supplied 6.4% of the applications and 27.1% of the denials, but I’m sure there was no abuse of discretion going on there. But here’s the part that scares Stahl and Ragsdale:

Despite their backgrounds, many of them appeal. And win.

Since 2003, at least 299 people deemed too dangerous or otherwise unfit for a gun-carry permit were able to obtain them on appeal to the sheriff or a judge, a Star Tribune analysis shows.

What our intrepid reporters are strongly implying here is that those horrible assaulters, weapons violators, abusers, dopers and tweakers are getting permits. But while those people may apply and get denied, they usually aren’t the ones who are doing the appealing.

The ones who appeal and win are the guys who were denied because he had too many parking tickets – not moving violations, parking tickets. Or folks like my former stepson who, 15 years ago when he was 16, was involved in gangs and drugs. Since then he has been clean and sober. He now has a steady job, a wife and a couple of kids. Should he be penalized for being a stupid teenager half his lifetime ago?

Also note precisely what BS Jr. said: these dangerous, unfit people obtained permits after appealing to the sheriff or a judge. So Stahl and Ragsdale have their collective knickers in a twist because the law is working. “Bad” people are being kept from getting their permits while good people who might appear “bad” at first glance are getting the second look they need for their rights to be recognized.

But S&R reveal their true colors:

In a system that prosecutors say is heavily weighted in favor of permit seekers, it’s nearly impossible to find out why the denials are overturned. State law protects the privacy of gun owners, prohibiting law enforcement from releasing any data that could identify them — even if they have criminal records.

Let’s rephrase that first sentence, shall we? In a system that prosecutors say is heavily weighted in favor of upholding voting rights, it’s nearly impossible to find out why the denials are overturned. I hate to break it to you guys, but in this country, the system is supposed to be heavily weighted in favor of the presumptively innocent.

Oh, and peoples’ privacy should be respected, even if they have criminal records. But S&R give us a bunch of, well, three specific examples:

In Hennepin County, one applicant had a felony conviction for manufacturing and dealing crack cocaine. Another in Ramsey County was suspected of shooting at a law enforcement officer. An Olmsted County applicant was a confirmed gang member. Each got a permit on appeal.

Since in the state of Minnesota you are ineligible to even possess a firearm, and are explicitly prohibited from getting a permit to carry if you have violated MN Statutes Chapter 152. Drugs; Controlled Substances, I’m guessing that there is more to crack cocaine boy’s story than S&R are letting on.

As for being suspected of shooting a cop, or any crime for that matter, I refer you once again to the whole concept of innocent until proven guilty, which the reporters don’t seem to even give lip service to.

Finally, just like a drug dealer, anyone who is listed in the criminal gang investigative data system under section 299C.091 is ineligible for a permit to carry, so I’m guessing that, like my stepson, S&R’s “confirmed gang member” was probably an idiot teenager and is now older and wiser.

In all three of these cases, the lack of specifics make it hard to refute the accusations. So while the two ink-stained wretches may bemoan the privacy afforded gun owners, it makes it a lot easier for them cast unchallenged aspersions and float invidious innuendo.

Most of the permits are granted upon a second review by the sheriff, but some are decided by judges in closed hearings. Law enforcement agencies that lose an appeal are required by state law to pay for the applicants’ legal fees.

In other words, a sheriff issues a denial stating that you beat your dog and are thus unfit to carry. Your first appeal is actually to that same sheriff. You appeal to him, submitting evidence that it was actually your neighbor who beat your dog, not you. The sheriff takes this under consideration and grants you a permit. According to S&R this is bad.

Even worse in their view, though, is that when the sheriff in question still denies your appeal, you can appeal again to a higher, impartial arbiter — in this case a judge. And worst of all, if the judge determines that the sheriff’s denial was arbitrary, capricious and outside the law, the sheriff in question has to pay for your appeal.

That section was specifically added to the law by people who had bitter experience with LEOs who preferred to deny all applications. They’d then tell the applicants that they could always appeal, knowing full well that the appeals process would cost them between $5,000 and $15,000.

The gist of the story, then, is that some people don’t like the law as it’s written. But, as reported by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, since initial passage of the Personal Protection act there have been 121,243 permits issued and only 22 permits revoked. That a whopping revocation rate of 0.018%.

In other words, lighten up Francises, the sky isn’t falling. The law works.