by Wayne Matteson
Special to the Star News
Early estimates placed attendance at 1,500 for the “Guns Across America” rally at the state Capitol Jan. 19. Nearly every state in the country held similar rallies in response to unease about executive orders and talks of renewing an assault weapon ban after the shooting at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.
Organizer for the Minnesota rally, Michael Rieschl, said: “Our message is to our Legislature, and that is ‘No new gun laws!’ Our country is very emotional right now, and that’s fine, except when you are making laws. Laws need to be based on fact and logic, not emotion.”
Many Americans are worried about new firearms legislation, resulting in very high demand for firearms and concealed-carry gun permits.
Dan Wellman, a Zimmerman resident and co-owner of Total Defense in Ramsey which offers gun permit training, stated: “When we opened up a little over a year ago we had about 25 students a week; six months ago it was 50 a week. Since Sandy Hook, demand has jumped to over 100 per week and we have had to increase our classes from one a week to three a week. We never anticipated this kind of demand.”
The Elk River Police Department saw an increase in gun permit applications after Sandy Hook. There were 37 permits sought in December 2011, compared to 75 this past December.
In all of 2011 there were 253 gun permit applications. There were 369 gun permit applications filed with the police department in 2012.
Saturday’s rally attendants proved to be diverse, and Wellman says his customer base reflects that.
“My customers come from all walks of life,” he said. “They’re law-abiding citizens, and 52 percent have been women.
“I ask every class why they want their permits, and they all respond with the same answers — it’s my right, and I want to be able to protect myself and my family. ”
With the possibility of new legislation and regulations on the type of firearms civilians are allowed to own, Wellman said, “It could increase expenses and hurt business, and people will resort to using less-effective firearms for self-defense and that could cost people their lives.”
The rally on Saturday remained peaceful in spite of the fact most of those in attendance were carrying firearms.
When asked about anticipated violence at the rally, organizer Rieschl responded: “I’m not worried. It’s a gathering of normal, gun-owning people, which are law-abiding citizens. We are not the crazies portrayed by the media, and part of our event is showing that.”