Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guns, Data, and You

I was intrigued by a letter to the editor I read in the Star Tribune last week.  The letter stated how a person was denied a permit for a handgun and was not given a reason for the denial.  This is not that the first time, and will not be the last, a person does what they are supposed to do to get a permit or license for some type of government sanction or benefit, then denied and not told the reasons for the denial.  I and other Minnesotans have experienced situations like the letter writer has, maybe not specifically with gun permits.

For individual access to handguns there are two basic laws, the conceal and carry law and the permit to purchase.  I reviewed the two sections of law.

I noticed that if an individual applies under the permit to purchase there is no mention of reconsideration process as there is for conceal and carry law.  There is no guidance directing as to what should be stated in the denial document as there is in the carry statute.  For example, the statute states there must be a specific factual basis including the source of the factual basis if you are denied a carry permit.  Not the case for permit to purchase which states specific reasons for the denial.  Granted, on first sight when a person reads the statute it seems that the denial document would be the same in both instances, but more than likely it is not.

For a person to have knowledge why the government denies them some benefit, permit, or license is important and a constitutional right.

I do not know what happened in Mr. Swenson's case(author of the letter)and his relationship with the Coon Rapids Police Department, but I would suggest to him to use the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to find out.

The part of the Act that allows an individual to access public and private information about themselves.  He may find out the reason if Coon Rapids Police still has the data.

As for you, remember getting the answer for why not, is just as important as to the why.


  1. Rich:
    If you look carefully at the Transferee Permit statute, you will notice several things which I believe you have overlooked.
    1. It is a "shall issue" statute: "The chief of police or sheriff shall issue a transferee permit or deny the application within seven days of application for the permit."
    2. Specificity concerning the standards of 624.713 are required in writing: "written notification of a denial and the specific reason for the denial."
    3. There is an appeal process, usually through a writ of mandamus: "Subd. 8. Hearing upon denial. Any person aggrieved by denial of a transferee permit may appeal the denial to the district court having jurisdiction over the county or municipality in which the denial occurred."

    The background check for the Transferee Permit is the same as for the Permit to Carry, if only because the issues are identical concerning any disability to possess a firearm. Unfortunately, there is no express provision for attorney fees, costs, and expenses for a successful appeal as there are in the Permit to Carry process.

    Your suggestion that one employ the MGDPA is good, but really all that such a request accomplishes is to enforce the explicit and independent duty of the reviewing authority already to specify the grounds (and specific statutory, factual basis) for the denial. An alternative would be to contact the BCA and to have them run a firearms background check on you, as the reviewing authority was supposed to do in the first place, looking specifically for any "firearms disability." Such a background check comes back with a notation on it, usually highlighted as a "FIREARMS DISQUALIFICATION" if there is one, and specifying where in the record it exists. As I recall, such an in-person request carries a charge of $8, perhaps $15 if done by mail. THEN, under the MGDPA, a person may challenge incorrect/erroneous or omitted data, as the case may be. If there is no firearms disqualification from the BCA background check, then it's time to have a serious discussion with the reviewing authority.

    I have found, over the years (and decades since 1977 when the Transferee Permit was instituted), that written notice to the reviewing authority that nothing objective was found concerning a disqualification on the applicant's own background check, coupled with a demand that the reviewing authority correct the deficiencies in what has been done, "sets them up" for a discretionary award of the costs of an appeal, especially in view of: 1. the language concerning the specific process and standards which the reviewing authority must follow; 2. the express language of the statute: "The permits and their renewal shall be granted free of charge."; and 3. The fact that the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is, as of this summer, a recognized constitutional right under the Second Amendment and applicable to the states. McDonald v. City of Chicago. Most, but not all, reviewing authorities will recognize the seriousness of the situation and stop playing games, or being lazy, as the case may be, and do it right once they are educated to the requirements which they haven't bothered to follow.
    Yes, one shouldn't have to go through such steps in order to enforce one's rights under law. But there is, in fact, a remedy.

  2. Thanks Dave, I appreciate your insights.

  3. yes run a criminal background check at the BCA.This shows all activity reported and dispositions of record.Most of all it shows whether youhave citizen rights restored or taken away.The fee is $8.00.