Center for American Progress Action

Fact Sheet: The Truth ​A​bout Violent Crime in Minnesota
Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet: The Truth ​A​bout Violent Crime in Minnesota

Violent crime in Minnesota is increasingly fueled by guns, with the share of murders committed with a firearm increasing 27 percent and statewide gun sales surging a stunning 180 percent in the past decade.

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Photo showing a woman holding a candle and a sign that reads
Demonstrators hold a peaceful protest following the gun-related death of Minnesota resident Daunte Wright in April 2021. (Getty/Kerem Yucel/AFP)

While overall property crime rates in Minnesota have dropped in the past five years, guns have driven a recent surge in the state’s violent crime. In fact, in the past decade, the share of murders committed with a firearm has increased 27 percent, coinciding with a stunning 180 percent increase in gun sales. Likewise, since 2015, the proportion of guns used as weapons in aggravated assaults rose 69 percent, and the share of guns used as weapons in robberies rose 52 percent. At the same time, police have reported dramatic increases in high-powered guns and rounds of ammunition recovered at crime scenes.

Despite Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison’s best efforts, [Minnesota] Republicans have repeatedly blocked proven, bipartisan solutions to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) and Attorney General Keith Ellison have long recognized the increasing role of guns in violent crime, and both have made commonsense safety measures a centerpiece of their agendas. But their efforts have been repeatedly blocked by Republicans in the legislature: Minnesota Republicans defeated efforts to raise the purchasing age for assault weapons, implement an extreme risk protective order that was supported by dozens of state police chiefs, and require background checks for gun sales. They also blocked Gov. Walz’s proposed $300 million public safety plan, which included significant funding for law enforcement agencies and crime investigators throughout Minnesota, as well as Attorney General Ellison’s proposals to boost his office’s criminal division, which helps to prosecute gun crime.

Now, Republican candidates Scott Jensen and Jim Schultz are set to make Minnesota’s gun crisis even worse. If elected governor, Jensen has promised to ban extreme risk protective laws and veto any measure expanding background checks—despite the fact that these policies are proven to help reduce gun suicides, lower firearm homicides, and prevent mass shootings. And Schultz, a candidate for attorney general, has rejected the need for commonsense gun safety measures, which helped earn him the endorsement of an extreme gun lobby PAC.

Gun violence in Minnesota: By the numbers

27%

Increase in the share of murders committed in Minnesota with a firearm in the past decade

180%

Increase in statewide gun sales in Minnesota in the past decade

69%

Increase in the share of guns used as weapons in aggravated assaults in Minnesota since 2015

52%

Increase in the share of guns used as weapons in robberies in Minnesota since 2015

Guns are increasingly driving violent crime in Minnesota

  • According to FBI data, violent crime in Minnesota remains well below the national average. In fact, property crimes in the state—which include all larceny, burglary, arson, and motor vehicle thefts—dropped 15 percent from 2015 to 2021.
  • Yet the state homicide rate, while still among the nation’s lowest, has surged in recent years. This is largely due to an increase in gun violence:
    • According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mortality data, the share of murders committed in Minnesota with a firearm has increased 27 percent in the past decade.
    • More Minnesotans died from guns in 2021 than in any year in the past two decades.
  • Guns are also driving increases in other types of violent crime:
    • The share of guns used as weapons in aggravated assaults rose 69 percent since 2015.
    • The share of guns used as weapons in robberies rose 52 percent since 2015.

Rural Minnesotans face a higher risk of dying from guns than residents of the Twin Cities

  • While the rate of violent crime increased in the Twin Cities metro region from 2020 to 2021, these increases mirrored a similar trend in rural communities: Of the 10 counties with the highest rates of violent crime in 2021, just two are located in the Twin Cities metro area.
  • While homicides spark national attention, gun suicides make up the vast majority of gun deaths in Minnesota: According to Protect Minnesota, nearly 70 percent of gun deaths in 2021 were due to suicide.
  • Gun suicides are largely concentrated outside of the metro region: Nearly 60 percent of gun suicides happen in greater Minnesota, and the gun suicide rate outside of the Twin Cities is nearly twice that of the metro area.

Minnesota gun sales and illegal gun trafficking have surged in recent years, contributing to rising rates of gun crime

  • A record 958,000 federal background checks were completed in Minnesota in 2020—a 40 percent increase over Minnesota background checks again exceeded 945,000 in 2021. In total, background checks surged 180 percent from 2011 to 2021.
  • Minneapolis has experienced a particularly pronounced increase in stolen firearms, with 282 guns reported stolen in the city as of August 8, 2022. That’s 36 percent higher than 2021 reports and 75 percent higher than 2020 reports.
  • In October 2022, Attorney General Ellison charged firearms dealer Fleet Farm with selling at least 37 guns to two straw purchasers, people who regularly purchase guns for convicted felons, domestic abusers, and others legally barred from owning a firearm. One of the guns alleged to have been illegally sold by Fleet Farm was fired during a 2021 Twin Cities shooting that killed a 27-year-old woman.
  • This surge in guns is affecting violent crime: Investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have reported dramatic increases in high-powered guns and rounds of ammunition recovered at crime scenes.

Gov. Walz and Attorney General Ellison have worked to lower gun crime by pushing for stronger gun laws and increasing funding for law enforcement

  • In 2017, prior to Gov. Walz taking office, Democrats introduced—and Republicans refused to consider—a bill to ban high-capacity magazines. According to researchers, high-powered assault weapons are used in 10 percent to 30 percent of fatal mass shootings and account for 13 percent of killings of law enforcement officers in the line of duty.
  • Walz made support for gun safety measures a central part of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, but Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have repeatedly blocked his efforts to implement an extreme risk protective order and require background checks for private gun sales—both of which have been associated with reduced gun deaths.
  • In 2022, after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, killed 10 grocery store shoppers and a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, killed 21 elementary school students and teachers, Republicans rejected calls for a special session to take action on long-delayed gun safety measures.
  • While Gov. Walz successfully directed millions of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to hire police officers and reduce gun crime, Republicans blocked his $300 million public safety plan—including significant funding for law enforcement agencies and crime investigators throughout Minnesota.
  • Attorney General Ellison has also made combating gun crime a centerpiece of his term, including by aggressively investigating and prosecuting gun traffickers.
  • Despite Ellison’s many proposals to boost his office’s criminal division, his requests have been repeatedly rejected by Republicans in the state Senate.

If sworn in as governor and attorney general, Jensen and Schultz would make gun crime even worse

  • As state senator, Jensen co-sponsored a “stand your ground” law, which encourages residents to respond with deadly force to perceived threats. According to researchers, “stand your ground” laws are responsible for an 11 percent increase in monthly firearm homicide rates and an additional 700 people killed with guns each year.
  • Jensen has promised to veto any measure expanding background checks, despite their support from more than 80 percent of Minnesota voters. A 2019 Harvard study found that states with background checks for all gun sales had 15 percent lower homicide rates than states without background checks.
  • Jensen has also promised to “ban” extreme risk protective orders, or “red flag” laws, in Minnesota, even though they have been shown to prevent mass shootings and reduce gun suicides and are supported by roughly 2 out of every 3 police chiefs in the state.
  • As governor, Jensen would also allow individuals to carry loaded, concealed handguns in public without first undergoing a background check, obtaining a license, or receiving any firearm training. Similar permitless carry policies have been associated with a 13 percent to 15 percent increase in violent crime and a 12.9 percent increase in shootings by police.
  • Attorney general candidate Schultz has repeatedly rejected the need for commonsense gun safety measures, including expanded background checks and an extreme risk protective order.
  • Schultz was also endorsed by an extreme gun lobby PAC that requires endorsed candidates to support reckless “stand your ground” and permitless carry legislation, both of which have been proven to drive spikes in gun crime.

Conclusion

Violent crime in Minnesota is increasingly fueled by guns. But despite Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison’s best efforts, the state’s Republicans have repeatedly blocked proven, bipartisan solutions to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Republican candidates Scott Jensen and Jim Schultz would make things even worse: If elected governor and attorney general, Jensen and Schultz would block bipartisan, evidence-based policies that lower gun crime and enact dangerous laws that increase gun homicides, police shootings, and illegal gun trafficking.

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Author

the Center for American Progress Action Fund

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