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Metro-area residents line up for gun permits under new law

By Ashley H. Grant

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Just a mile down the hill from where lawmakers changed the state's handgun permit law, Jason and Jim Hedquist, brothers from Shoreview, Minn., were among the first to apply for permits Wednesday at the Ramsey County sheriff's office.

"It's a constitutional right to bear arms," said Jason, 25, who went through training three weeks ago.

He doesn't know whether or how frequently he'll carry a gun but said he wants to have a permit to leave his options open -- especially when traveling.

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"There's never a cop around when you need one," he said.

In the past, most permits were issued by police chiefs, who had broad discretion over who they allowed to carry a handgun. Applicants had to demonstrate an occupational need or a threat to their safety. Through the years, few permits were issued in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, prompting a brisk business on the first day of the revamped regulations.

The new law puts sheriffs in charge and requires them to issue permits to most law-abiding, mentally competent adults who have taken a training course in the safe use of a handgun.

By the numbers

In the next three years, the number of permits in the state is expected to increase from 12,000 to about 90,000, according to legislative researchers and law enforcement authorities.

Last year, Ramsey County issued about 100 permits. Sheriff Bob Fletcher said he expects that number to swell to between 5,000 and 10,000 this year.

"We're expecting a constant stream through the summer," he said.

He's redirected 10 employees to work on processing permit applications and doing background checks. If the first two days are any indication, they'll be plenty busy. The schedule is booked solid and already spilling into upcoming weeks.

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Across the river in Minneapolis, Hennepin County officials decided to process applications on a first-come, first-served basis in a separate building. When the doors opened at 8:30 a.m., 42 people were waiting.

Feeling safe

By noon, more than 130 people had applied, including Brian Roeder, a 42-year-old day trader who drove from his home in Crystal, Minn., to apply. He said he has several handguns, and plans to carry a .45-caliber pistol in his car all the time.

"If someone gets road rage and tries to kill you, you can kill them back," Roeder said. "The law will keep the bad guys in check."

Khali Rasheed, 35, of Brooklyn Center, Minn., said he wanted a permit so he can protect his family and feel safe in his business, which requires him to carry large sums of money. But he also worries about more guns on the streets and doesn't think guns should be allowed in public places or churches.

"A church should be a sanctuary, a place to pray," Rasheed said. "Why would you carry a handgun there?"

More than 40 churches have joined to support a request by Community Lutheran Church in Edina, Minn., for a restraining order against the new law's notification requirement and language that would still allow guns in church parking lots. The lawsuit, set for a hearing today in Hennepin County, claims the provisions violate religious freedom.

Legislative leaders generally agree the notification requirement should be changed, but it was unclear whether that would happen this year. The adjustment sought by sponsors and Pawlenty would allow a business or church to either post a sign or tell visitors directly if they want to keep handguns out of their buildings.

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As the law is now, someone would have to do both before it would be illegal for a person to carry a concealed gun inside the property.

Because the Metrodome is a public building, guns can't be banned outright, but groups that lease the space -- like the Minnesota Twins -- can and have prohibited firearms.

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