Applications on the rise in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino
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Authorities across the country are getting a flood of applications to carry concealed weapons in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., especially in locations near sites of recent mass shootings.
The spike is perhaps most pronounced in California. The Sheriff’s Office in San Bernardino, site of last week’s shootings that left 14 dead and 21 injured, said it had received about 80 applications for concealed-carry permits by early this week, compared with the 10 or 12 they might get in a typical week, according to a spokeswoman.
Applications are up in several neighboring counties in California, including Riverside, Kern, Imperial and San Diego, according to representatives in those offices.
Arapahoe County, Colo., which includes much of Aurora, where James Holmes killed 12 and injured 70 others in a 2012 movie-theater shooting, is getting nearly 60 applications per day, far more than the normal 15-20, according to a spokeswoman with the county sheriff’s office. Allegheny County, Pa., home to Collier Township, where a gunman killed four and injured nine at a health club in 2009, has seen applications in the past week “rise significantly,” according to Kevin Kraus, the county’s chief deputy sheriff.
“I think Paris put personal safety on people’s minds, but San Bernardino has brought it home,” said Steve Gabbitas, a spokesman for Kern County, northeast of Los Angeles. The county was on pace to get 250 concealed-carry applications in December, more than twice the number in a typical month, he said.
Sheriffs in some counties are actively encouraging people to carry firearms. “I want to encourage citizens of Ulster County [N.Y.] who are licensed to carry a firearm to PLEASE DO SO,” wrote Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum in a Dec. 3 message on his office’s Facebook page.
Sales of guns and ammunition have traditionally spiked after shooting incidents in recent years, including the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook School. All gun sales made through federally licensed dealers are subject to background checks by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI will decline purchases to certain categories of buyers, like people with significant criminal records or with histories of serious mental illness.
But now, people appear to be moving beyond straightforward firearm purchases. They are looking for the possible protection a concealed weapon may provide, rather than a firearm for hunting or target-shooting, say retailers, law-enforcement officials and other people involved in the gun-permit process. The applications may include some who have owned a gun for a while, but now want the ability to carry it legally on the street.
In order to carry a concealed weapon in many states, people need to meet qualifications beyond what’s required in an FBI background check, like proof of residency and evidence they have completed gun-safety training.
Justin Anderson, marketing director at Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C, said in the last week he has seen a rise in requests for “small Rugers, Glocks, Smith & Wessons,” weapons geared for concealed carry. “The panic after Sandy Hook was a worry that the government was going to pass more gun regulations,” he said. “The driver after San Bernardino seems to be personal safety.”
Under the laws of many states, authorities give permits to anyone who meets a few basic qualifications, like completing a gun-safety course. But California is one of a handful of states that grant local authorities broad discretion on whether to issue permits. Some California counties with significant rural areas generally will issue them to anyone who articulates a valid reason for one, including the desire to protect themselves in public.
In more urban counties, like San Diego and Los Angeles, authorities require more, such as evidence that someone has been repeatedly threatened or is a business owner who handles large sums of cash late at night.
Whether more restrictive approaches like San Diego County’s violates the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is unsettled. A three-judge federal appeals court in San Francisco last year struck down the policies in San Diego and another California county. An eleven-judge federal appeals court in San Francisco later threw out that ruling and reheard the case but has yet to rule.
Many Second Amendment experts think the issue will ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which has mostly punted on hearing gun cases since two blockbuster rulings in 2008 and 2010 that said individuals have the right to keep guns in their homes.
Legalities aside, some gun-rights supporters say that while a concealed weapon may provide a measure of security, they don’t guarantee safety.
Lance Boland, the chief firearms instructor at F.A.S.T OC, a firearms and safety training center in Orange, Calif., said that a concealed weapon might give someone properly trained in gun use “at most a fighting chance” in a San Bernardino-like situation.
“But when a live shooting starts, there’s no script,” he said. “There’s just no way to prepare for that.”
Write to Ashby Jones at [email protected]