Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fletcher's Follies Continue

 Copyright 2010 Douglas J. Hester 

This article may be freely copied, distributed and quoted, provided attribution is given to the author at this website.

When we last visited Ramsey County, Minnesota Sheriff Bob Fletcher, he was left trying to explain just why his handgun carry permit denial rate was so much higher than any other county in Minnesota, and exactly why the data that his own office reported to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (the state agency required by law to collect such numbers once a year from each of the 87 counties in Minnesota) appeared to provide direct evidence that someone in Fletcher's office was trying to hide an even higher denial rate from the BCA as well as the public at large.

Well, we were wondering how the sheriff was doing at his job lately, especially given the relatively recent news of his alleged deep involvement in papering over the antics of the now-shuttered in disgrace Metro Gang Strike Force, so we thought we'd pull the 2009 BCA Permit to Carry Report and see if Sheriff Fletcher did in fact see fit to report his carry permit denials to the state in a more consistent and forthright manner.  Surely he would have taken serious note of our previous exposure of his office's "sloppiness" (to be more than kind) and tightened up his reporting accuracy, right?

Would anyone be shocked to learn that apparently absolutely nothing has changed over at the Ramsey County Government Center?

Based on the numbers presumably submitted by Fletcher's own deputies to the BCA that are listed on the report's summary page, Ramsey County issued 1160 permits and declined to give out 151 (remember this number, as it will join several others in just a moment), a denial rate of 13%.  This percentage is stunningly high when compared to other high-population counties in the metro area.  Hennepin County, for example, issued 3053 permits and declined to issue 80, a denial rate of 2.6%.  Anoka County issued 1723 permits and denied 36 for a rate of 2.1%.  Washington County issued 1226 permits and denied 12 and Dakota County issued 1529 permits and denied 15, which means that both heavily-populated jurisdictions had impressive denial rates of under 1%.  Even St. Louis County, which contains the city of Duluth and has roughly the same population as Ramsey, issued 1301 permits and denied 5 for a denial rate of 0.4%.  The rest of Minnesota's counties had denials in the single digits, so those weren't looked at in detail.

Ramsey County appears either to contain the vast majority of persons in the state prohibited from owning and carrying handguns (which is nonsense) or, more likely, someone in power is misusing their authority to arbitrarily deny the citizens of that particular county of their right to carry firearms in public for self-protection.  Someone such as Sheriff Fletcher, who just like in previous years seems to be consistently denying carry permits at a rate 4 times higher than any other sheriff in Minnesota feels is necessary.

That's not the real stunner, however.  Perusing page 770 of the BCA report, which is where Ramsey County lists the categories of specific reasons for each denial, a whopping 171 permit applications are reported to have been denied for the nebulous (and hard to prove) catchall reason of "danger to self or others".

But wait just one minute.  Remember, on the summary page Ramsey reported a total of 151 denials.  This one category has more than that total just by itself, which obviously means that more than 151 total permits had to have been denied.

Now, unbelievably, wait just one more minute.  On pages 787 to 801 of the report, in which the specifics of each and every denial are listed in detail, Ramsey County documents reasons for denying an incredible 191 permits, yet a third total for the exact same category.  Taking 191 as the actual number of denials (a reasonable step since the individual details for each case are presented), this would give Ramsey County (and by extension Sheriff Fletcher, whose personnel control such decisions) a truly astounding actual denial rate of 16.5%, more than five times that of the next lowest counties.  What's more, many of the other reasons (besides Fletcher's plainly overused and seldom-proven "danger to self or others") given by Ramsey County for permit denials are for such things as arrests (not convictions) for crimes and convictions for DWI, neither of which disqualify a person from a handgun carry permit under current Minnesota law.

151, 171, 191.  Whichever is the true number (why can't the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office get the numbers to come out right even once in the same report, much less over multiple years), it only reinforces our previous conclusion that 

"The only explanation seems to be that Sheriff Fletcher is denying applicants based on some other standard known only to him, a standard which is apparently much higher than the legislated one that 86 other sheriffs in Minnesota seem to be using with great success."

One wonders why the BCA is still refusing to look into this obvious ongoing misuse of the carry permit approval process in Ramsey County, especially given the lack of professional judgment and institutional controls Sheriff Fletcher demonstrated in the aforementioned Gang Strike Force debacle.  

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