More people seeking gun permits, but self-defense gun use is rare

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A record number of Minnesotans have permits to carry guns, but statistics indicate that only a tiny fraction of them have ever used the firearms in self-defense, the Star Tribune reports.

A Minnesota law approved in 2003 required local police and sheriffs to report the “lawful and justifiable use” of firearms by permit holders to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. But only a few self-defense cases have been reported, in part perhaps because of flawed reporting practices, the Star Tribune says.

In the same period, there have been 124 convictions of permit-holding gun owners, the newspaper reports.

Gun foes say that statistic makes a case for more control. “I think that the whole premise of the more guns, less crime was false," Heather Martens, head of Protect Minnesota, tells the Star Tribune.

But gun rights advocates say gun owners are more law abiding than the general public. And they argue that a declining violent crime rate in Minnesota proves that the state is safer when there are more responsible gun owners with firearms.

The back-and-forth over justifiable shootings comes amid a backdrop of a broader national debate over gun control, as well as passionate debate within the state and by its lawmakers.

The FBI reports that in 2011, there were 653 justifiable homicides in the nation. Of those, private citizens justifiably killed 260 people during a crime, and law enforcement officers justifiably killed 393 felons, according to the FBI.

Bloomberg recently reported that gun deaths by homicide, suicide or accident peaked in the U.S. at 37,666 in 1993, then dropped to a low of 28,393 in 2000, the data show. Since then, the total has climbed again to 31,328 in 2010.

Bloomberg reports that gun-related deaths could exceed traffic deaths for the first time by 2015.

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