Applications for concealed-weapon permits up 87% in El Paso County
By ED SEALOVER
March 10, 2008 - 7:28PM
DENVER - Applications for concealed-carry weapon permits in El Paso County rose 87 percent in 2007, fueled partly by several highprofile violent incidents locally and nationwide, said Sheriff Terry Maketa.
Permit applications rose 50 percent statewide and more than doubled in 18 of Colorado's 64 counties, according to a report issued Monday by County Sheriffs of Colorado.
Executive Director Don Christensen downplayed violence as a reason permit applications were up, noting the 2003 law mandating statewide concealed-carry permitting required that anyone who had a local permit before the law went into effect had to renew it by June 2007.
But Maketa said that of the 2,101 permits issued in El Paso County in 2007, roughly 75 percent were from new applications rather than renewals. El Paso County issued the highest number of concealed-weapon permits of any county in the state in 2007, but it is also the most populated, according to the 2006 Census.
Maketa said the greatest spikes in applications over the past year have come right after well-publicized incidents of violence.
After the February 2007 mall shooting in Utah, applications rose from 81 in February to 191 in March. Then, after the April rampage in which a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, applications went up from 174 in April to the year's monthly high, 210 applications, in May.
The trend continued after the December shooting of two sisters at New Life Church. Applications rose from 123 in December to 171 in January to 294 in February, according to figures from the Sheriff's Office.
The spike in the number of murders in Colorado Springs and a spate of legislative bills that cut into gun rights last year also factored into the equation, Maketa said.
He said he is not concerned about the growing number of legally armed people in the county. In fact, he said he believes law-abiding citizens make the region safer by getting the permits.
"Actually, I wish it was a higher number, because I know from experience that offenders in the jail system tell me they avoid crimes against people because they know there is a very high concealed-carry rate," Maketa said.
About 8,400 El Paso County residents now have active concealed-carry permits. The jurisdiction with the second-highest number of permits, Jefferson County, issued 1,139 in 2007 - 54 percent of El Paso's total.
Rep. Amy Stephens, a Monument Republican and House Judiciary Committee member, argued even more strongly than Maketa that people have been running to get permits because they believe their 2nd Amendment rights are being compromised while crime is going up.
She cited last year's SB34, which curtailed Coloradans' ability to use a concealed-carry permit issued by another state, and the news from earlier this year that the state parole board has increased the number of criminals it has let out of jail in recent months.
"I think people are saying, ‘Hey, if you're going to let criminals out and not protect us, we're going to have to protect ourselves,'" Stephens said.
Sen. John Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat and author of SB34, said that though he does not think concealed weapons add to anyone's safety, he is not alarmed at the rise in permits. Because the state keeps a database of permit holders and can revoke a permit quickly if the person commits a crime, the general public is not at risk, the former Fountain police chief said.
El Paso also led the state in the number of permits denied (44) and revoked (49) last year. Thirty-four of the 49 revocations occurred because the permit holder was arrested, but Maketa said he does not believe any of those arrests were connected to the improper use of a weapon.