Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
By Kathy Thompson
Concealed carry licenses down sharply this year
  The number of new concealed carry licenses in the Grand Lake area dropped dramatically this year after steady increases in 2012 and 2013.
Three times as many licenses - which allow gun owners to carry firearms in public - were issued from January through March of 2013 than the same time period this year.
Sheriffs in Mercer and Auglaize counties note the first quarter figures from the Ohio Attorney General could pick up again throughout the year. They believe the harsh winter and less legislative threat on the federal level to implement gun laws may have deterred some people from applying.
"You never really know," Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said. "I'm a little surprised. We've seen a spike in numbers in the last few years."
Mercer County during the first quarter this year issued 69 concealed carry licenses, compared with 216 during the three-month period last year. A total of 654 new licenses were issued in 2013, 349 in 2012, and 124 in 2011, Grey said.
Auglaize County so far this year issued 78 licenses, compared with 240 in the first quarter of 2013. A total of 601 licenses were issued in 2013, 306 in 2012, and 220 in 2011.
Grey said the lower numbers since January likely aren't a trend.
"It all depends on the climate of the political scene and the mood of the country," he said. "If you see or hear media reports of guns and ammo being scarce or the threat of gun rights being taken away, we'll see a spike. If a crime, like the Grube murder in 2011 happens close to home, people get scared and we see more requests come in."
Grey's records show that after the murders of Robert and Colleen Grube in Fort Recovery in November 2011, license requests spiked from 34 in the first quarter of 2011 to 83 in 2012. Auglaize County also showed an increase during that timeframe from 58 to 92, records show.
"People get worried when they hear government officials start talking gun control," Grey said. "Or they get worried if a lot of crime starts showing up close to home. People want to be protected."
Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon agrees.
"Anytime you hear a group or the government suggest that there should be tighter controls over gun ownership, we see an increase in people wanting a concealed carry permit," Solomon said. "People get worried when they think a right is going to be taken from them."
John Barker, a patrolman with the Celina Police Department, teaches a concealed carry class and witnessed a slight drop in enrollment the past year.
"Two years ago we had a big run," he said. "This year, not so much. People tend to want to take the classes when they perceive there is a threat to either their Second Amendment right (to bear arms) or when there is the possibility of something dangerous happening to them."
Barker teaches on average 100 to 200 people each year, he said.
Grey said when concealed carry licenses were introduced in 2004, people were afraid it would be like the "Wild, Wild West."
"That just hasn't happened," he said. "We've not had an incident where we've had a problem with someone having a concealed carry. People who get concealed carry permits are law abiding residents who have to go through a lot of hoops before we can issue them a permit."
Jim Weaver, 63, an employee at Kremer Guns in Celina, said gun sales jump when rumors of, or politicians discuss, tightening gun control. He also said requests for handgun safety training courses - which must be satisfactorily completed before applying for a concealed carry license - fluctuate depending on the political mood of the country.
"People think their rights are going to be taken away, so they rush in and want to buy a gun or get a permit," Weaver said. "My opinion is, this is still the United States of America and the Constitution is still intact. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to actually take our right to have a gun away and I just don't see that happening."
Weaver, who has held a concealed carry license since 2003, believes it may have saved his life. His job as a traveling salesman led him one day to an isolated part of Texas.
"I did have to pull an unloaded gun on a couple of guys that day," Weaver recalled. "They told me to get out of my truck. I don't know if they were going to rob me, take my truck or what they were going to do. I just happened to have bought a gun from a store down the road. It wasn't loaded when I pointed it at them, but they didn't know that."
The suspects quickly fled, he said.
"You just never know when you'll be in a situation where a gun may be the only way to save your life," he added.
Getting a permit doesn't mean you have to purchase a gun, Grey said. He knows people who take the concealed carry classes, apply for a license but never carry or even purchase a gun.
"They do it for their own peace of mind sometimes," Grey said. "They know they can get a gun and carry it if things change for them."
Solomon said people have a right to defend themselves.
"But I also believe there is a liability issue," the sheriff said. "Just because you have the right to carry doesn't mean you should."
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
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• Presentation on effort to stem drug abuse draws large crowd
• Officials mull easing storage rules
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• Celina district's forecast calls for brighter financial future
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• Big postseason contests on the diamond this week
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