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Growth in concealed carry permits aren’t unique to oil patch

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There is some frustration in North Dakota over concealed carry permits. Under state law, the Attorney General’s office is supposed to issue a ruling on a permit application within 60 days. But for a lot of applicants that’s not happening. They’re being forced to wait months longer than 60 days.

Not surprisingly, that’s causing some consternation. And a lot of the blame is going toward the oil patch. People are pointing to the growing populations, and fears among citizens in western North Dakota that their communities are less safe, as driving demand for concealed weapons permits.

But is that fair? Is it accurate?

First, it’s worth acknowledging the boom in demand for concealed carry permits in North Dakota. Since 2005, the number of concealed carry permits issued in North Dakota has grown 479%. In just one year, from 2011 to 2012, the number of permits issued increased nearly 124% from 5,634 to 12,614.

Those are some big numbers, and it’s understandable that the Attorney General’s office would be seeing a backlog. But these numbers don’t answer our question.

Are oil patch population growth, and fear of rising crime in oil patch communities, driving these numbers?

That doesn’t appear to be the case.

Illustrating just how much attention oil activity’s impact on things like concealed weapons permits gets, the AG’s office breaks the numbers down by oil counties versus non-oil counties.

From 2009 to 2012, permits in non-oil counties increased 111%. In oil counties, permits increased 139% basically a wash, especially when you consider that western North Dakota was a bit more gun-friendly even before the oil boom.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem himself affirmed this during a recent interview with radio show host Jay Thomas on WDAY AM970 in Fargo, noting that the increase in applications is coming from “all over the state.”

“There has been an increase in applications coming from every county but two,” he said.

North Dakota has seen a lot of talking points – some driven by politics, others driven by genuine (if misguided) concerns about population and crime – about problems with crime in the oil patch. But concealed carry permits aren’t a good metric for that debate.

Growth in concealed carry permits in North Dakota is happening all over the state, and seems more the result of the national gun control debate than the oil boom.

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