Little self-defense in Minnesota gun law, report suggests

Because of the way the concealed carry law was written in Minnesota, we’re not allowed to know immediately whether a permitted gun was used in shootings in the state (like this one, for example), or whether a crime was prevented because of one. It’s illegal for the police to say. Only a once-a-year report to the Legislature can be parsed to reveal reality.

This is the most interesting statistic in this year’s report: There was not a single case of a gun permitted under the carry law being used for self-defense in a carry situation. Not one.

Nearly 200,000 thousand Minnesotans have permits to carry guns, the report said. That’s about 14 percent more than the number of valid permits at this time last year, MPR’s Brandt Williams reported.

“They thought the streets were going to be running with blood, but statistically, it hasn’t shown itself as a problem in terms of an increase in the amount of gun crimes,” Cmdr. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office told the Star Tribune.

He’s right. More than 10 years after the pitched battle over the law, it’s clear the hyperbole from both sides was overwrought. We’re not ducking road-rage shootouts, but we’re not fending off criminals, either, the Pioneer Press said.

According to the report, there were no recorded instances last year of lawful and justifiable use of firearms by permit-holders — for instance, a shooting in self-defense.

It’s possible, of course, that merely flashing a gun was enough to turn aside a ne’er-do-well, and to be sure, people who seek permits aren’t necessarily doing so for self-defense.

But the lack of self-defense incidents in the latest report (pdf) of the Personal Protection Act isn’t a fluke. The 2013 report also listed no cases of self-defense uses of a gun by a permitted carrier.

There was only one in 2012, none in 2011, 2010, 3 in 2009, none in 2008,none in 2007, none in 2006, and one in 2005.

That’s consistent with what many who voted for the law expected.

“I’m not going to make the argument that this makes us safer,” then-Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, said on the day the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the legislation. “I’m not sure that it does. But what I do think is that this liberty is one we have to fight for. Our forefathers fought for it and now it’s our time to fight for it.”

  • MrE85

    Liberty doesn’t always require packing heat. That should be seen as a good thing.

  • Dave S.

    Any statistics on the number of accidental shootings involving permitted guns?

    • The statistic of accidental shootings while carrying isn’t part of the report.

      • Jennifer Mascia

        But a huge, overlooked part of this story.

        • Didn’t overlook them. They don’t have anything to do with self defense.

          • Jennifer Mascia

            I am saying that it should be – this is way too broad and doesn’t tell the whole concealed carry story. Why tell half the story?

          • First, it’s not a story, it’s a blog post. One looking back at one component of the original debate over CC.

          • Jennifer Mascia

            Blog post = story = article. MPR doesn’t print a paper, so those things are synonymous.

          • They’re really not. First time here?

            Also, we don’t allow fake names/email addresses. So don’t do that.

          • Jennifer Mascia

            My email address is real. But I am a gun violence reporter, and if I use a real name – which I did until just a few weeks ago – I will be harassed on Twitter. My block list is a mile long.

            All reporting is reporting, regardless of the format. Every story goes online, so now it’s all digital content. I worked for the Times for 8 years and saw the transformation close up. I worked for a paper then, blogged for that paper, and work for a blog now. There really isn’t a distinction anymore.

          • There is. But I know newspaper types don’t think so and the tradition of journalism is whatever newspaper people think is reality, is reality. Fortunately, I don’t pay attention to them. (even though they’ve taken over the radio news industry too.) :*)

            A blog, done correctly, is a much different beast.

          • Jennifer Mascia

            Hear hear, my good man. 🙂

          • JM

            TOMMY GNOSIS = Jennifer Mascia, a paid, Bloomberg, anti-gun shill.

          • Jennifer Mascia

            I actually have been a gun violence reporter since January 2013. So I am really a NYT paid shill. And my profile name – and real name – is Jennifer Mascia. What’s yours? Why is everyone so secretive around here? Why am I the only one not afraid to be named?

          • john

            Why just gun violence and not violence in general? More murders are committed with blunt force objects than with rifles of any kind. Being a “gun violence” reporter immediately shows a bias, and therefore makes your reporting suspect. Why would you want this label?

          • Sorry, this one got through. Phony name, phony email, and attack on other commenters violates the TOS. His/her IP address has been banned from the site.

            I’m tried of messing around on this point.

    • Jennifer Mascia
  • BJ

    So how many fewer uses of non permit holders using guns in a crime are there?

  • Erik Petersen

    Well Bob, I can tell you right now the 15 year old shooting his dad yesterday in Minnetonka didn’t occur because of malfeasance in the permitting system. No need to wait for next years report, we can say that with certitude now.

    I would think that the carry class’ emphasis on environmental awareness and conflict avoidance is almost more meaningful than the pistol instruction. And its training
    effects among the permit holders would be statistically significant, were ‘avoidances’ countable and measurable.

    In terms of ‘non-reporting’, other thing is the permitted citizen does their self no great favors reporting brandishings to police. Why bother?

    • BJ

      >malfeasance in the permitting system.

      What?

  • Gary F
    • jon

      With statements like this one “Some counties have reported disqualifying crimes while others reported additional crimes.” and “Not all police departments have reported conviction data as require” as foot notes in the document, it doesn’t surprise me.

  • Gary F
    • jon

      I’m not sure why but I’ve yet to see a report on the decline in gun violence (which peaked in ’93 according to your link) and the Brady bill (passed in November 1993)

      Probable because they can’t get a direct correlation put in place, likely because congress prohibited the federal government from doing any research into the area of gun related violence.

      • George Mason

        Perhaps that is because there isn’t any. The National Academy of the Sciences studied the Brady Bill and discussed this in their 2004 report. Their conclusion: “There is no evidence that the Crime Bill had any effect on the prevalence of gun violence” In addition the panel found there is no evidence any gun control is effective. You should read the full report. But don’t let science stand in the way of a good emotional gun control belief.

        http://www.wnd.COM/2004/12/28253/

        • jon

          So you are saying that you agree with me. They can’t make a direct link between the too…

          Your article says “In short, the panel could find no link between restrictions on gun ownership and lower rates of crime, firearms violence or even accidents with guns.”
          I say “Probable because they can’t get a direct correlation put in place” (repeating my typo for a quote.)

          There IS a correlation, you can see it in any graph that shows a downward trend in gun crime right after the Brady bill became law…
          There may or may not be causality, one government report couldn’t find any, but turning around to say that proves there is none is not scientific… There is even a scientific name for that kind of logic “Evidence of Absence” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_absence

          Now as for me having an “emotional gun control belief” I’m not sure where that came from but I’ll tell you my opinions on gun control.
          Some gun owners screwed up bad, and that is the only reason we are having any conversation about gun control. As your article states “nearly 80 percent of those interviewed got their guns from friends or family members, or on the street through illegal purchases.” So legal gun owners either failed to secure their weapons and they fell into the hands of criminals (which I understand can be friends and family), or they gave them to would be criminals. In my opinion gun control was something that was left to gun owners, and when enough gun owners opted out of controlling their guns they put the options in the hands of the government.
          I’m FOR responsible gun ownership, but I’m opposed to acting like an idiot with any deadly weapon because of freedom.
          Most gun advocates I talk to are opposed to acting like an idiot with a weapon… but unfortunately not all… some of them are both pro-gun and pro-idiot, That is a deadly combination, sometimes for themselves, some times for loved ones, and some times for complete strangers.

          • George Mason

            I’m a scientist, I know all about absence of evidence. There are times, however, when absence of evidence is meaningful. Correlations do not equal causation. The sales of Greek Yogurt has increased over the last 20 years. In the last 20 years we have had 9 of the hottest summers on record. So do you mean to tell me that Greek Yogurt is related to climate change?

            According to your logic if the ban worked we would have seen crime rise when it expired in 2004, but it continued to drop. How can this be if it was working?

            The committee the that Nat. Academy of the Sciences put together were some the top scientists in our country. Do you mean to tell me that you can find evidence where they cannot. If gun control worked, wouldn’t they have found at least a little evidence that it worked? They reviewed 99 books, almost 300 peer reviewed publications and looked at 80 gun control initiatives, no evidence. The absence of evidence is very conspicuous in this case and is highly suggestive.

          • jon

            Clearly you aren’t reading what I’m writing, and choosing instead to project opinions on me about how I feel about every piece of gun control legislation out there. I was talking about the Brady bill, you assume that means the assault weapons ban.

            I say there may still be a link between things that wasn’t found by a study, you assure me that the government and their scientists have exhaustively studied every possible variable in the world.

            I can not have a discussion with some one who has already decided what I’m thinking on every topic with out consulting me.

            Good Day, and thank you for the earlier link.

          • Jim E

            I would suggest that you read the NRC report “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Report” again. The focus was not on an absence of evidence, but an absence of data available for analysis.

            From the press release for the study:

            “Data limitations are immense in the study of firearms
            and violence, the committee emphasized. The report calls for the
            development of a National Violent Death Reporting System and a National
            Incident-Based Reporting System. No single data system can answer all
            questions about violent events, but it is important to start collecting
            accurate and reliable information that describes basic facts about
            violent injuries and deaths.”

            [http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=10881]

            The MN Personal Protection Act doesn’t help. Restrictions on retaining and reporting data do nothing to illuminate the issue.

  • Wes

    you can find more than a few defensive gun uses in Minnesota here:

    http://gunssavelives.net/tag/mn/

  • David Gross

    Vaccination and lightning rods have the same effect; but, of course, [most] people aren’t mindless organisms. But some are. And lightning doesn’t care.
    Reality is that it is so much better to have a gun and not need it than it is to need a gun and not have it. There is zero harm in that, except to the hysterically imaginative and fearful who also have boundary issues concerning the freedoms of others to think and to act differently from what they want.

    Out-of-context half-truths are still whole lies. Permits to Carry are completely irrelevant in private places, such as homes and other private property. Permits are exercised only in “public” places. So, don’t expect the permit to carry report to cover “all guns, everywhere, under any circumstances” and lack its focus, thank you.

    • Brian

      “There is zero harm in that”

      Statistically this isn’t true. Owning and carrying a gun makes it more likely that you or someone you love will be hurt or killed by one.

      That doesn’t mean you are wrong in your conclusion that you should carry one. I agree that I carry some risk of being involved in an indecent where I will be hurt or killed for want of a gun, I just think the risk of carrying one is greater. As long as you acknowledge the fact that there is some risk to carrying a gun and I acknowledge there is some risk not to, then maybe there is some chance we can both agree that we just see the world differently and have a civil discourse on the matter.

      • David Gross

        Brian, thanks for the thoughtful and respectful rejoinder and apparent persuasive arguments. You talk of balancing of “risk,” but you don’t identify the context or boundaries of that risk: risk of what, to whom, by whom, with what? I believe that you rely on some false premises, but that’s your right, for yourself.

        The statistics to which you refer have been debunked since they first appeared, because they didn’t deal with concrete context, identity, and causation; but rather only with a vague and loose correlation with mere existence. That was the “43 Times” fallacy concerning gun “ownership” and which buried the leade in its footnotes that there was a stronger correlation with sociological factors such as drug use/intoxication, drug dealing, and a history of [often criminal] personal and socioeconomic/cultural violence. In other words, it didn’t address the idea that the person had a gun in their home for good reason, under all the circumstances. The study counted ONLY dead bodies and didn’t account for successes, which just happen to be about “43 times” in the opposite direction of analysis, where, approximately 98% of the time, display is adequate and no shots are fired. Although they kept revising the fallacious quantity downward over the years/decades in order to soften it in order to make it more palatable, they never eliminated the fallacious quality, because they never addressed the question of whether the gun that was owned was the one which was used (by a human being) in causing the harm to the owner or the loved one. They never addressed the factor of, “You’re not paranoid if in fact they really are out to get you.” Semper paratus.

        My guess is that you don’t know the four rules of gun safety/handling which, if followed, eliminate accidents/negligence. Bottom line: if you don’t handle it, it can’t go boom. Having it available and carrying it is not handling it. Firearms don’t go off by themselves autonomously. Firearms are tools, not magic; they have no power by themselves, by their mere existence or presence. They can only be used; they are passive instrumentalities.

        I, of course, recognize my biases, as apparently do you. And that’s also for the good. I just happen to think that my knee jerks more toward the respect for the individual’s ability to think for himself, to evaluate, and to make choices for himself.
        As long as we recognize and respect the freedom, the ability of each other to engage in our own personal calculations of risk and reward under the constitution and laws, and the circumstances as we see them, we will get along just fine. I won’t try to make you do anything which you don’t choose to do, because it’s what I would do; and you won’t try to stop me from doing something which I choose to do, because it is something you wouldn’t do.

        • Brian

          I don’t know anything about “43” times, but this article cites several recent studies that attempt to account for other factors and still find a relationship between guns and violent death http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2015/01/good_guy_with_a_gun_myth_guns_increase_the_risk_of_homicide_accidents_suicide.html

          All studies have flaws, and I of course take these with a grain of salt, but it certainly isn’t unreasonable to expect there to be a true relationship there. Again, the main question for me is whether this risk is outweighed by the risk of “bad guys with guns”, which for me is very very low.

          • George Mason

            He is referring to Arthur Kellerman’s soundly debunked research which you are unwittingly repeating that stated you are more likely to be killed or kill a family member by having a gun in the home than you are to kill an intruder. About 39 of the cases were suicides which would have happened anyway. As I recall, one or two were domestic abusers that the wife justifiably shot and killed.

            The Benefit to Risk Ratio of having a gun comes out to be between 1 to 9 depending on the data source. Even the strongly anti gun biased CDC acknowledges that defensive gun use is at least as common as the criminal misuse of guns (330,000, usually just illegal possession) and can be has high as 2.5 million.

            Your risk may be very low, as is mine. However, the risk of you being killed in a car accident are low and you still wear seat belts. You are more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than have your house burn down but yet you still have smoke detectors.

            If you follow the 4 rules of firearms safety you will never have an accident. The rules are redundant and overlapping. It is impossible for you to have an accident if you follow them. Tip: buy a revolver.

          • George Mason

            No, suicides should not be included as they have no relationship to the availability of guns. The only “research” that finds a theoretical relationship are gun-control groups with political agendas. But we don’t have to rely on logical
            extensions and theories when we have real world evidence. In 1996 the UK banned all handguns and since they had all of them registered they confiscated every legally owned handgun, semiauto rifle and pump shotgun. Australia
            did likewise. With both countries the rates of suicide did not change. So in the real world it has been proven there is no relationship.
            If you look at the data below Belgium, France, and Austria (where guns are tightly controlled and gun ownership is very low) they all have suicide rates significantly higher than the US. Also, the UK is only 0.2 per 100,000 less which
            is not significantly different. So if more guns resulted in more suicide rates this would not be the case….but it is. Facts often are contrary to what would appear to be “common sense”. Remember learning the law of gravity in that all objects fall at the same rate irrespective of weight? This situation is like that, it is counter intuitive.

            Western European nations, Canada, and Australia have cultures and belief systems closer to America’s. With this in mind, let’s compare the suicide rates of several of these nations to our own.
            1. Belgium 17 per 100,000

            2. France 14.7 per 100,000

            3. Austria 12.9 per 100,000

            4. United States 12.0 per 100,000

            5. UK 11.8 per 100,000

            6. Canada 11.5 per 100,000

            7. Australia 9.7 per 100,000
            Yes, elimination or restriction of guns would certainly have a positive effect on the number of gun-related suicides, but in the end, the method a loved one uses to commit suicide is far less important to me than is the fact that he or she committed suicide in the first place.

            In the end, the theory that the restriction or elimination of guns would have a positive effect on the overall suicide rate in the U.S. does not hold up under scrutiny. Like so many other initiatives advanced by gun control proponents, it is clearly a straw man argument and should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

        • Jack Ungerleider

          I’ll side with Brian and Jeff (see below) on this. When I make my calculation I ask, “Do I wish to be a risk to others?” One need simply Google “toddler gun purse” to find two stories in the last couple of months of accidental shootings caused by a 2 and 3 year old each finding a gun in Mom’s purse and discharging the weapon. One incident was fatal. There have been other local stories about children finding an playing with loaded weapons, and accidents occurring. Statistical studies will show these are rare incidents involving poor handling of the weapon.

          Personally I don’t want to have to think about how I would react if my weapon caused such an accident. The easiest way to avoid that is to not own a gun.

        • KTN

          “The statistics to which you refer have been debunked since they first
          appeared, because they didn’t deal with concrete context, identity, and
          causation…”.

          But dead is dead – so really, who cares about context or identity, unless of course, the families should count their blessings in the knowledge that their loved one’s death might be taken out of context.

          • David Gross

            Well, these factors have something to do with the concepts of “right and wrong,” you know, the rules we live by and guide our conduct with. So it matters whether I have legitimately and effectively defended myself against an unlawful attack upon me or an unlawful invasion of my home, even if the attacker or invader is loved by someone else in the context of another relationship. In the context of the relationship we had, the fact that he has a different and loving relationship with third parties is totally irrelevant.
            How many times had you read in the news a mother’s comments about someone who has been shot and killed while they were committing a crime: “He was a good boy who was turning his life around.”?
            Nobody wants anyone’s blood on their hands; but what they want less is their blood on someone else’s hands. Get it? Yes, context matters.

          • Brian

            Actually, I would rather have my blood on someone else’s hands than an innocent person’s on mine.

  • TCguns_carry

    Hey, Bob, Why don’t you do your job – uh, ‘journalism’ – and file a data practices request to find out how many LEO agencies actually complied with the requirement to track and report defensive firearm incidents. Crickets.

  • Jeff

    It’s not my choice to carry a gun around. Maybe I live a sheltered life in the outer suburbs but I can’t think of a single instance in my 25+ years in Minnesota where I’ve felt threatened. How does one decide when you’re going out to carry or not?

    • David Gross

      “How does one decide when you’re going out to carry or not?”
      First, you don’t outsource your thinking or ask permission or seek approval of someone else. Second, you evaluate the circumstances and make a decision as to the costs (probability times magnitude) and benefits (probability times magnitude).
      All the social sciences (economics, sociology, criminology, political science) are based on an econometric model of evaluation of human responses to stimuli (incentives/disincentives, profit/loss, cost/benefit). Survival is a prime directive.
      Miscalculate at your own risk.

      • Jeff

        That’s quite a calculation.

    • permalink

      I have gotten a carry permit because I CAN. I also feel I should be able to get on a airplane w/ out being groped, walk down a street w/ out being asked/ frisked, and have a fire in my backyard w/ out a permit.

  • SomeGuy

    Bob,

    The
    BCA report does not have accurate numbers for this category. It relies
    on police departments to report this information, and they just do not
    do this. It also fails to take into account situations where a firearm
    was used, but not fired.

    The police department isn’t in the business of deciding whether or
    not to charge someone with murder or to determine that a shooting was
    justified, that’s the prosecutor’s job.

    Here’s one example of a well documented case of self defense by a permit holder in public during 2014:

    http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2014/09/23/man-released-after-claiming-self-defense-in-fatal-mpls-shooting/

    Figure out why this one example wasn’t included in the 2014 stats and you might learn why the BCA’s number is unreliable.

  • yikesarama

    I have carried every day for over 10 years, mostly in Minnesota, but also now in North Carolina and in states I travel through. What many miss is the fact that permit holders watch their behavior far more than before they carried. Looks like a fist-fight in the next block? Cross the street and avoid it. Someone in a car cuts you off? Forget it; don’t flash him the bird. Your situational awareness is much higher, yes, but also your eagerness to avoid a confrontation.

    • Guest

      You couldn’t learn that “eagerness to avoid a confrontation” or heightened situational awareness without carrying a gun?

      • Ron Fresquez

        Good point!

      • J F Hanson

        I don’t get your point.

        Explain it, please.

  • Dean Weingarten

    There is no reason for most lawful defenses to be recorded by the police. The correct sentence structure would be that there was not a single case of self defense by a permit holder recorded by the police. It is a large difference.