Big Increase of Background Checks for Minnesotans Seeking Gun Permits

Updated: 01/05/2013 3:30 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

To buy a gun from a licensed dealer in the U.S., you first need to pass an FBI background check. The agency says last month in Minnesota, it conducted 20,000 more checks than it did a year ago, in December 2011.

The increase would seem to indicate there's a growing demand for guns. So what's behind it? Analysts attribute the spike to concerns that tighter gun control regulations might take effect this year, in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. And that some people who want guns fear they need to get them now, or they might not be able to get them later.

Friday evening, gun enthusiasts were making final preparations at the Brooklyn Park Armory for a two-day gun and knife show. They were expecting record crowds--and sales. It's the first major gun show in the Twin Cities this year, and the second since the Connecticut tragedy. A show in Bloomington last month drew 80 percent more attendees than the year before.

"Well, because a lot of people really think the government is going to take some strong actions to limit purchases and possessions. Everybody wants to get their toys," said Keith Kallstrom, a self-proclaimed "lifetime hunter, target shooter and collector." He was planning to sell a rifle and a shotgun at the show.

There were nearly 56,000 FBI background checks done in Minnesota in December, a result of people applying for permits. Compare that to December 2011 when there were a little more than 34,000 checks done. That's a 64 percent increase.

Looking at this trend across the U.S., at the total number of potential gun buyers the FBI investigated in December, the numbers are up as well. In fact, a new national record was set. The FBI conducted nearly 2.8 million background checks. That's a 49 percent increase compared to December 2011.

"Yeah, I see a lot of panic buying," said David Meacham of Coon Rapids. He's not selling guns at the show, only ammunition and reloading supplies. But he made it clear: "If people don't have a permit to carry or a permit to purchase, I will not sell them a firearm."

Yet according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, background checks aren't required in Minnesota--or 32 other states--for people wanting to buy guns at these shows. Critics have long said that's a loophole that needs to be closed--especially now, in light of growing concerns that gun violence is out of control.

"They have the perception that anybody can come in here to a private party and buy anything they want," Kallstrom said. "I'm not going to say that doesn't happen but I'm going to say it's unusual."

Jim Wright, the organizer of the gun show, said, "At least here in a gun show it's a controlled environment, versus the individual making sales out of their house. These sellers don't want to do that so they come here where they have a larger audience to move the guns."

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com