More seek concealed weapons permits
By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY
Gun owners are packing heat in record numbers, fearful of stricter gun control under the Obama administration and higher crime in a sour economy.
Some states and counties report a surge in applications for concealed weapons permits since the November election. All states but Illinois and Wisconsin allow concealed weapons, but requirements differ.
Applications already have hit a record this year in Clay County, Mo., where the sheriff's office received 888 through June, compared with 863 in all of last year, says Sheriff Bob Boydston. The office recently hired two part-time workers to deal with the rush.
In the past, applicants tended to be middle-aged men, he says, but recent applicants include "grandmothers, older folks, young women, young men."
They tell him the bad economy will lead to more thefts and break-ins, he says, but his statistics show violent crime related to the recession hasn't gone up.
They also say they fear gun control, he says. Last week, Boydston spoke with an elderly couple seeking a permit. "They are positive the president is on the verge of coming to our homes and taking our weapons," he says.
Statewide, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has processed 18,878 background checks so far this year for the permits, the most since the agency began keeping statistics in 2005, Lt. John Hotz says. It processed 18,466 checks during all of last year.
In May, Obama signed a law that will allow guns in national parks. "The president respects and supports the Second Amendment and the tradition of gun ownership in this country," White House spokesman Ben LaBolt says.
Interest groups on both sides agree that demand for permits is up because of economic uncertainty and concerns about a new president and a Democrat-controlled Congress.
"People pay attention to politics. … They're afraid of another effort" to try to enact more gun control, says Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. "Part of the concern is spurred by the economic downturn and fear that crime will go up."
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, fears that violent confrontations will increase as more people carry concealed guns. "When someone's carrying a gun around and they're not fully trained, oftentimes they'll use it just because it's there," he says.
Demand is also up in:
•Florida. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services hired 61 temporary workers in spring to tackle a backlog in applications, says spokesman Terence McElroy. The department received 75,520 applications through June, on pace to beat last year's record of 90,331.
•Caldwell County, N.C. Residents filed 358 applications for permits in the first half of this year, compared with 135 for the same period last year, "a bigger increase than we've ever seen in the past," says Sheriff's Detective B.J. Fore. "People are worried about desperate times."
•Texas. The Department of Public Safety has seen "an unprecedented increase" in applications since November, spokeswoman Lisa Block says.
•Utah. June ranked as the top month ever for applications, with 11,292 received, says Lt. Doug Anderson of the state Bureau of Criminal Identification. This year also is record-setting, he says, with 49,499 applications in through June.
Craig Ball, manager of Impact Guns in Ogden, Utah, has offered more training courses to meet demand.
"Last year, a typical class would be 15 to 20 people," he says. "Right after the election, we had as many as 55 people."