According to Chief Deputy Jimmy Kilgore, concealed carry permits issued in January of this year were almost double the number from last January, from 422 to 828. And that was up from 352 permits the January before that.
The spike really became apparent in November 2012, where permits issued went from 321 in 2011 to 387 in 2012. December permits numbered 500, compared to 372 permits issued last year.
The total number of permits issued in 2010 was 4,458, then dipped a little in 2011 to 4,426. By the end of 2012, the total number was up to 5,086, and the numbers for 2013 are expected to dwarf that figure. In addition to the 828 permits sold in January, an additional 368 were sold as of Feb. 15.
“We really started noticing the increase in November and December,” Kilgore said. “I think some of that is probably driven by public fears, either that gun laws or laws regarding our rights will be changed. But people are buying guns and permits in record numbers. And we want all law abiding citizens that want a concealed carry permit and can legally get one to be able to have one. And we will ensure that, when an application is submitted, that the permit is issued in a timely manner. We do conduct a background check to make sure you are not forbidden. But if you want a permit, just come here (to the Talladega County Judicial Building) or to the Sylacauga Complex, and complete an application. We’ll need seven days after that for the background check, and once that’s done you pay a $20 fee and get a permit good for one year.”
The fee is set by the state legislature, but may be different in other counties.
Under federal law, a person cannot have a gun if they have been convicted of a felony, are a fugitive from justice, is a drug user or drug addict or has been committed to a mental institution or has otherwise been adjudicated as mentally defective.
People in the country illegally or aliens with a non-immigrant visa are ineligible, as are those with dishonorable discharges from any branch of the military. People with restraining orders against them and with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence are also ineligible, as are those who have renounced their citizenship and those under indictment for, but not yet convicted of, a felony offense. These people may continue to possess firearms obtained prior to the indictment, however. Concealed carry permits will only be issued to people over the age of 21.
Although the sheriff has some discretion in granting permits, Kilgore said “we never have, and will never, arbitrarily deny a permit if the applicant is otherwise qualified. Our goal is to support public safety, which is why we have started offering citizen firearm safety classes, where we teach people how to properly handle and store firearms. We have an obligation to ensure public safety.”
Although the number of concealed carry permits issued in the last few months is impressive, it does not by any means tell the whole story. Concealed carry permits are only necessary for pistols and handguns that will be carried in public or in a vehicle. You don’t need a license to have a gun in your home, on your property or at your place of business. You also don’t need a permit for a rifle or shotgun.
“I would say that if you have any question about whether or not you need a permit, go ahead and get one,” Kilgore said. “I support our Constitution and the Second Amendment, but I also support not living in the Wild West.”
Carrying a pistol in public without a permit carries criminal penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Flying Off the Shelves
Steve Hurst and Joe Ballow are the owners of the Haynes Street Pawn Shop, and are also familiar with booming gun sales.
“Sales are definitely up,” Hurst said. “We’re actually having trouble keeping guns and ammunition in stock. We can’t go without selling out of ammunition for more than a day or two. We’re having to back order.”
It’s not just hand guns, either, Hurst said. “We’re really selling more of everything. Women are wanting pistols to walk across large parking lots coming to or from work, and they’re scared. A lot of parents are buying them for older children who are out on the road going to work. There’s a crime fear factor, and there’s also a fear of unreasonable regulations coming into play.”
Hurst added that “there’s not really one type of gun more popular than another. We’re selling a lot more Tasers, too, but they still aren’t up as high as the gun sales have been. People are afraid that they’re not going to be able to buy certain types of guns later, or the price of ammunition will go way up or there will be some kind of new restrictions. People fear the unknown.”
Ballow largely agreed. “We’re having trouble keeping everything in stock, especially automatics with small or large magazines. For a while, all of our automatics and all of our revolvers were sold out. We have improved our stock recently, but it’s still hard to keep up.”
Ballow said the increased demand came from several factors. “You have these shootings in the news, plus you have people talking about the possibility of banning magazines with more than 10 rounds. People are afraid, they’re hoarding ammunition, and you can’t get it in stores. When Walmart gets a new shipment of ammunition, it’s gone in five minutes.”
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org