After 5-year climb in gun permits, numbers waning because of a change in law
Next time you’re at the grocery store, you could be standing in line with someone who is carrying a gun.
More people are exercising their legal right to carry a firearm. The number of License to Carry permits issued by the Centre County Sheriff’s office almost quadrupled in the past five years, according to annual reports issued by the Pennsylvania State Police.
In 2010, 12,074 permits were issued – 2,697 more than the previous year’s 9,377. Going back, there were 5,019 issued in 2008; 4,577 in 2007; 2,675 in 2006; and 2,595 in 2005.
But Sheriff Denny Nau said numbers have been dropping since May 2011, when Act 66 went into effect. The act requires citizens to apply for the License to Carry permit in person. Before the legislation, applications were accepted by mail, which made it easy for everyone, even non-Pennsylvania residents, to obtain a permit.
“The difference is the out-of-staters,” said Nau. “We still have people coming in from New York, South Carolina and some other states, but we’re not getting the volume because people aren’t going to drive here,” said Nau.
Although he said there is no way to search the system by residence, Nau estimates only about 35 percent of applicants in the past five years have been Centre County residents - about 13,000 people. In layman’s terms, this means that about every ninth person in Centre County has a License to Carry Firearms.
Nau said supporters of the Second Amendment will collect as many permits as they can.
Before Act 66, applicants who passed the background check were issued a simple paper ID card without a photo. In the five years leading up to Act 66, License to Carry permits were raised from $20 to $25 to fund equipment upgrades for each sheriff's office in Pennsylvania. Each office is now equipped with a camera and a machine to print photo ID cards. After Act 66 went into effect in May, the fee was decreased to $20.
Applications peaked at almost 1,600 in April 2011, but fell sharply after Act 66 became law. The number of total permits issued in September 2011 was only 201.
The result is a big loss in profits for the Centre County Sheriff’s office.
“We’re losing around $20,000 a month,” said Nau.
Rick Doyle of State College said he supports the Second Amendment.
“You just never know when something could happen. I feel better knowing I can protect myself,” he said.
Others are not as comfortable with concealed carry laws.
“There is way too much tension in our everyday world to compound it with concealed weapons,” said Samantha Brasel of Mount Carmel. “Leave that to the undercover cops.”
Handgun sales have also risen in the past five years. In 2005, 623 sales were recorded. That number almost tripled by 2010 when 2,034 handguns were sold.
“I think it’s just become a part of our culture in the last few years,” said Nau. “People want to be able to defend themselves and we have the Second Amendment that says we can carry firearms. I support that as long as they are law abiding citizens. We want good people to carry firearms to protect themselves.”