MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A record number of people are legally carrying handguns in Minnesota.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says sheriffs issued more than 71,000 permits to carry last year. That’s a dramatic spike since the year before, when about 45,000 people received the permit.

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Shooting off a lunchtime round at Bill’s Gun Shop and Range in Robbinsdale, we found Heather Evans. She has been carrying for five years.

“For me I do a lot of solo backpacking so I carry with me for safety purposes, not only from people but from animals,” Evans said.

She’s teaching her friend Stella, who is considering getting a permit, too.

“It’s more like sporting for me, definitely,” Stella said.

And that’s the case for about half the customers at Bill’s Gun Shop and Range, according to the owner. About 50 percent of those getting permits are for sport, the rest see it as protection.

Yia Her of Brooklyn Center is in the application process.

“Just for the safety of my wife and kids, that’s pretty much the main point why I want to get a carry,” Her said.

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Todd Symons of Plymouth says, “For one thing it’s my right, for another thing, the world is changing.”

Manager Nate Stone is feeling the sharp increase in permit to carry applicants.

“There was an attendance spike in our classes. We did add a couple more classes to facilitate the needs,” Stone said.

While some credit the spike to politics, Stone believes it’s a change in perspective.

“Firearms have become more socially acceptable and more people actually having the conversation about firearms,” Stone said.

What some see as controversial, he says, others want to take a shot at.

“We see a wide array of people who are coming in these days to shoot. It’s turning into more of a bowling thing. Sort of a fun thing to do at night,” Stone said.

The owner of Bill’s says he estimates of all the people who do have permits, 80 percent of them only carry on occasion.

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There’s a lot of permits out there, more than 256,000 total in Minnesota now.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield