Handgun carry applications break record in January
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 7:20 AM
Nearly 5,000 people applied for a handgun license in Oklahoma for the first time last month, setting a record since licensing began in 1996, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
There were 4,970 initial applications for a handgun license in January. That beat the old record by 1,714 applications, set when the law allowing concealed handgun licensing went into effect in January 1996.
In January of last year, 1,861 initial applications were filed.
The OSBI also processed 1,137 renewal applications last month. That number was down from January 2012 by 14 applications.
The OSBI has seen a steady increase in the number of people seeking a handgun license, but the number spiked sharply in the last year.
In 2012, 39,875 handgun licenses were issued - a 66 percent increase over 2011.
More than 146,000 Oklahomans had a handgun license as of Jan. 18.
In November, a law allowing the open carrying of firearms went into effect, meaning anyone with a license could carry a handgun either concealed or openly.
Sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark said there almost always is a line of people to submit applications at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. The office recently has been processing about 40 applications a day, with 60 applications submitted on Friday.
"It's been standing room only over there," Clark said.
People seeking licenses must submit their applications at a sheriff's office to have their fingerprints taken and photographs verified. At the Tulsa County office, no appointment is necessary, so the number of applicants fluctuates daily and is difficult to predict, Clark said.
"They're working as fast as they can," he said of the employees. "They have little time to perform any other function."
The OSBI has increased its staff in the Self Defense Unit and is using employees from other units to handle the workload. OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said the current processing time is about 60 days.
"In the summer, we were over 90 days," Brown said. "You can never predict. That's the problem."
Brown said the agency's staff will continue to adjust to make sure applications are processed in a timely manner, but she said there are no plans to hire more staff to help with the application process.
Clark said the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office has the personnel it needs to process the applications on the front end, but it has just a few machines for taking fingerprints.
Brown said it's difficult to say why one year or month has more applications than another.
"Unless we had something on the application saying why they are applying, we don't know," Brown said. "And that would not go over well, anyway."
Clark said applicants with whom staff members talk have many reasons for wanting to get handgun licenses. One of the most popular reasons seems to be concern over increased rhetoric and actions related to gun restrictions, Clark said. People applying for the licenses are concerned that gun ownership could become restricted, he said.
"With the proposed changes in gun laws, if you start restricting guns from law-abiding citizens, the only people with guns are bad guys and law enforcement," Clark said. "I think people just want the liberty and right to have a gun, so they want to do it the right way."
Clark said recent violent events have prompted people to obtain licenses for the protection of themselves and their family. The mass shootings at Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and locally - a quadruple homicide last month - might have contributed, he said.
"When something like that happens, you'll see a spike in an application process," Clark said. "It's several parts of the society, and they're all coming together at one time."
Number of handgun applications approved
Original Print Headline: Handgun license requests hit record
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Maj. Shannon Clark: "It's been standing room only" for applications at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, he said.