Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 30, 2003

Local law enforcement thoughts on the conceal and carry law

By Ryan Gueningsman

Although the conceal and carry law has been in place for many years, several changes have made the approval process easier, and it was projected that there would be an influx of people getting permits and obtaining guns.

That has not been the case ­ at least in McLeod County. So far, McLeod County has approved about 15 permits to carry a concealed weapon. Approximately 100 applications have been handed out, said McLeod County Sheriff Wayne Vinkemeier.

"We expected a deluge of people," he said. "But that wasn't the case."

From May 28, when the law went into effect through last week ­ there have been two approved permits in the City of Glencoe, seven in Hutchinson, one in Winsted, and one in Lester Prairie, along with several rural residents receiving approval. Once a permit is issued, it is good for five years.

Before the law changed, persons wishing to obtain a gun must have an occupational or safety hazard, in addition to meeting other stipulations.

Now, persons need not have an occupational or safety hazard. There are, however, six basic requirements for getting a permit to carry, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension):

· Must be at least 21 years of age.

· Must complete an application form.

· Must not be prohibited from possessing a firearm.

· Must not be listed in the criminal gang investigation system.

· Must be a resident of the county from which you are requesting a permit if you reside in Minnesota. Non-residents may apply to any county sheriff.

· Must provide certificate of completed authorized firearms training.

After the application is completed, the sheriff then has 30 days to make his decision on whether to approve or deny the request.

"So far, in McLeod County, all of the people I've seen come in and apply for applications are good, solid citizens," Vinkemeier said. "The criminal is going to get his/her gun, and carry it illegally anyway."

This is something new for law enforcement to deal with, with the potential that more people involved in traffic stops and incidents may be armed.

"This will definitely make law enforcement step up and take notice that there may be more guns on the streets," Vinkemeier said.

"That is number one," said Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich. "When we search people ­ that is exactly what we are looking for ­ weapons. It could make things a little different."

Another issue is transporting people on medicals who may have been armed. That is something the ambulance staff will potentially have to deal with ­ what to do with the weapons, Henrich said.

Businesses are able to prohibit people from carrying weapons onto the premises. Signs that must meet certain criteria must be posted at the entrances.

Winstock, for example, which is considered a private event by the county, posted signs at the entrances to the festival grounds and campgrounds.

Other buildings that are automatically banned from having weapons inside include courthouses, school grounds and buses, and federal buildings, Vinkemeier said.

Places like city halls, council chambers, libraries, and parks however do not fall into the category of a privately owned business, yet they were apparently overlooked when the law was written.

"By posting signs, some public entities are challenging the law," Vinkemeier said. "There will be some court cases, and time will tell what will happen."

"We are challenging the state law," said Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson. "Lester Prairie is not alone. Meeker County, and several other cities are doing the same thing."

In the past, people who had the permits were allowed to go anywhere, said state representative Tony Kielkucki. "The new law is a lot stricter as far as schools and that sort of thing."

There has been some talk around the capitol building recently about fixing up things that people are complaining about, and may need to get fixed up, Kielkucki added.

Individual cities have not had much of a reaction to the changes in the law.

"We had one person come in who was in support of it," said Carlson. "Otherwise, there has been no response to it. If people want to protect themselves, I'm all for it, but at the same time, we're looking out for the safety of the public."

"As far as a person protecting themselves, I believe in that," Henrich said.

"The main thing is for people not to overreact," said Vinkemeier. "We still live in a safe environment out here."

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