Permits to carry: Where are they concentrated?

There’s no doubt Minnesota’s seen a big jump in the number of handgun permits issued by county sheriffs. But where are those guns?

On a raw count, you’ll find many in the Twin Cities metro area. Out of 114,793 valid permits issued through the end of 2012, about half are in the seven county metro.

A different picture emerges when you compare the data to a county’s population. Here’s a map with county-by-county data on permits to carry a gun per 1,000 people. Mouse over the dots to see the numbers.

These are valid permits from applications received May 2003 to December 2012 and valid on or before December 2012. Here are the numbers in chart form.

We tend to talk about a divide between metro area and greater Minnesota when it comes to gun culture and gun laws.

Looking at handguns, though, we may have to rethink that discussion. Handgun ownership in the rural parts of southern, western and northwestern Minnesota look pretty similar to the metro area when population is considered.

If you counted all valid permits to-date (125,339) and used the Census 2012 population estimate, Minnesota averages 23 permits to carry per 1,000 people.

Again, the data are limited to weapons where a permit is required — handguns and military-style assault weapons. Permits aren’t required to buy rifles or shotguns.

But if you’re focused on the current debate on gun laws, there are many rural areas of Minnesota that are not really part of the handgun culture.

Note: We took the data from the Department of Public Safety Permit to Carry report (page 251). That counts 114,793 valid permits issued through the end of 2012. Including those issued so far in 2013, the BCA counts more than 125,000 valid permits. We used 2010 Census data for county populations.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm

    Hey Paul, just what is this “Handgun Culture” your speaking of. Is that some sort of ethnic slur, a dirrogatory shot at rural RUBE’s. What is the purpose of putting this info out there, who are you arming with this?

  • vjsj

    I agree with first commentator, twin cities and

    most metro folks, know little about hunting a rabbit, shooting a muskrat in a trap,target shooting as an enjoyable hobby. Outstate MN

    is just that . A differnt place. A better place.

    Check out the northeast counties, surprising. Some people need permits while others’ carry anyway, other reasons, such as availability to

    illegal weapons. Red Lake #’s are not accurate,

    in my opinion

  • JoeO

    The large data graphic does NOT represent the article title of “Permits to carry: Where are they concentrated?”

    If the graphic truly represented the article title, it would show there is a massive (and by far the largest) concentration of gun permits located in Hennepin county, and in a very small geographic concentration relative to the rest of the state.

    It is not relevant or useful to show concentrations of “permits per 1000 people” when most non-urban counties have populations of people that are very spread out.

    How about a data graphic overlay that shows where are the gun permit concentrations located in relation to the concentrations of high crime rates, untreated mental illness, homelessness, unemployment, and drug addiction?

    How about showing a historical line graph to display what happens to the number of gun crimes when available jobs goes up? or what happens to the number of gun crimes when drug addiction goes down?

    Gun crime is a symptom. We are unwilling to get serious about dealing with the root causes of gun crimes.

    Should we also deal with drug addiction problems by having everyone in Minnesota that uses needle syringes for any reason (ie. diabetes, chronic conditions, home care, etc.), to first register themselves and submit paperwork to go through a back ground check? Should we also publish a map of where these needle syringe users live? They just might be a drug addict or just might become one in the future because they have syringes in their possession, right?

    If you believe stricter gun laws are the answer, do you also believe stricter laws for needle syringes will prevent drug addiction? or believe background checks will prevent existing drug addicts from getting access to needle syringes? or actually believe it will reduce drug addiction?

  • William Drey

    IF you turn it around and find where the long guns are concentrated, the outlying counties would be probably about 100%. They may not have a hand gun, but I will bet you they sure as hell have rifles and shot guns.

  • Dale Ekmark


    Unfortunately, articles in regards to statistics can, and does very well in this case, lead to misleading, twisted and biased information. Instead of population, how about presenting permits per square mile? The concentration of permitted handguns would then be in Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul…etc. MPR obviously knows better than to play the statistics game and mislead it’s already misled audience. Another nick in MPR’s credibility.

    The real concentration of total handguns by area is actually in Hennepin and Washington Counties, not Cook and St. Louis.

    Cook County .08 permits/square mile

    St. Louis County 1.08 permits/square mile

    Washington County 423 permits/square mile

    and!!!!! Hennepin County 606 permits/square mile.

    Let’s be honest, you can present any idea in any manner and it is true and proves absolutely nothing.

    Dale Ekmark, Angora, Minnesota

  • Denny

    The writer takes a wild leap when he says, “there are many rural areas of Minnesota that are not really part of the handgun culture.”

    That’s simply untrue and misleading. The “handgun culture” is everywhere in rural Minnesota and growing.

    What the writer doesn’t realize is that many in rural MN simply cannot afford the repressive costs and fees to get a legal permit to carry–so they just CARRY–without paying the costs. It’s accepted.

    That’s the real answer–and it rains on the writer’s anti-gun campaign.

  • chad

    Denny, i think your wrong. Nobody around here carries without a permit to carry. Remember, 1st time caught like that is a misdemeanor, 2nd offense is a felony. Is it worth it? The cost of the fines in the misdemeanor are more than the ptc costs.

    This so called “handgun culture” is a joke. I’m in rural minnesota. I have as many hand guns as i want. I love guns. Shooting targets, pistols, trap with shotguns, and long range with rifles. I love hunting. So i have a variety of guns. Whether it’s as simple as my Ruger SR22 for plinking targets, or my Barret .338 Lapua, or .50BMG. There’s nothing wrong with owning 1 gun, or 100 guns. If your responsible, and don’t feel that a gun gives you certain powers, and your of sane mind, you should have no problems. I have a PTC, and honestly, i hardly ever carry. Very rare that i do! I have not and will not carry when i go out. No point! Why take a chance of being out at a bar, and have 3 drinks, and a fight breaks out, someone knocks you down, and takes your gun. Not that you were even involved in the fight. But it could happen. Why put yourself into a spot that could turn into a bad situation. I have carried when i go into MPLS. Of course i will. Shootings per square mile down there are way more than around here!

    Just because you have a PTC doesn’t mean you have to carry. I know alot of people who have one just because they don’t want to forget to renew their PTP every year. So a PTC is good for 5 years.