By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
LE CENTER — Every Mankato-area county has seen an uptick in gun permit applications, but demand in Le Sueur County has been so vigorous the Sheriff’s Department is adding a staffer just to keep pace with the paperwork.
Sheriff Tom Doherty said the Obama administration’s plan to tighten U.S. gun laws has prompted permit applications in the county to increase about 700 percent in the past several weeks.
Doherty said going to the County Board for approval to hire a part-time office worker not only relieves full-time employees of the application crunch but is an exercise in due diligence.
“We don’t want to run into a situation where we give out a permit to someone who’s not qualified.”
Doherty said in all of last year Le Sueur County issued 300 permits — 150 to purchase firearms and 150 to carry them.
He said recently his office has been handling 30-50 applications a week, most of those for purchase permits.
Doherty said applicants aren’t required to state which type of firearm they seek.
“But basically it’s handguns and semi-automatic rifles. What it comes down to is that there are people who’d thought about getting an AR-15 but didn’t, and now they’re worried that they won’t be able to.”
The semi-automatic AR-15 and attendant high-capacity ammunition magazines are being targeted in particular by gun control advocates.
Boosts in gun sales and permit applications routinely occur whenever stricter gun control proposals dominate national discourse. The same held true several years ago when there was talk about extending the assault-style weapons ban, which expired in 2004.
But Doherty said this time around is different. “I didn’t ever see it (applications) spike up like this before.”
Doherty said he has no idea how long the application rush will last.
“But if it stops tomorrow, good.”
The Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Department handles purchase and carry applications for rural county residents as well as for those in the cities of Kasota and Elysian. Applications in other county towns are handled by their police departments.
Doherty said the part-time paperwork person will work two to three days a week “until this blows over — if it blows over.”