PARKERSBURG - Growing concerns over gun control laws and the right to bear arms have Wood County residents flocking to sign up for concealed carry permits, officials said.
Several years ago, the Wood County Sheriff's Office issued 128 permits in one month, making that the highest number ever recorded here, until this month. Chief Deputy Shawn Graham said the office, as of Thursday, had received 150 applications for gun permits since the first of the year.
Graham said it costs $110 to apply for a five-year gun permit in Wood County. The application fee is refundable if denied, he said. Graham said a course has to be completed before a person can apply for the permit.
"Once they've applied for it, (the sheriff) has to run a background check," he said. "From the time someone applies the sheriff has 45 days."
Graham said the results are usually quick and someone applying for a gun permit can usually receive one within a few days.
The sheriff has the ultimate say on who can receive the concealed carry license, Graham said.
"So we've already seen a tremendous increase," Graham said. "We're only half way through the month and it seems like people are flocking just to get the pistol permits."
People are growing anxious and concerned over their gun rights, Graham said.
"I can't see any other reason why the numbers have gone up that much," Graham said. "People are doing everything to ensure their right to bear arms."
To become a licensed concealed carry owner in the state, applicants must meet the following criteria:
* Be a resident of the state and county in which the application is filed.
* Be at least 21 years of age or at least 18 years of age and employed in a job requiring the applicant to carry concealed handguns.
* Not be addicted to or an unlawful user of alcohol, controlled substances or other drugs.
* Not have been convicted of a felony.
* Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence involving the use of a deadly weapon.
* Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
* Not be currently subject to either a temporary or final domestic violence protective order.
* Not be on probation or any other form of judicial supervision for any misdemeanor.
* Not be under indictment for any felony.
* Not have been declared mentally incompetent by any court.
* Be physically and mentally competent to carry a concealed handgun.
* Have successfully completed one of several specified forms of training in handling and firing a handgun.
Anyone wishing to have the concealed carry license must go through some form of training, according to gun laws. Training can include any official National Rifle Association handgun safety or training course. The courses are available to the general public and offered by state and county agencies.
For more information about concealed carry permits in the state visit www.usacarry.com/westvirginia.
Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department said officers could see a change in the way guns are handled within the department.
"We have 65 officers that are qualified on firearms three times a year," he said. "We have to buy ammunition for pistols, rifles and shotguns."
Collins said with the shortage in ammunition police officers could begin conservative usage measures and additional ordering for practicing with and using the firearms. He said the firearms instructors anticipated a potential gun control situation several years ago and planned accordingly.
"Ammunition isn't something police departments can do without," he said. "I would say some departments are in panic mode right now if they didn't have the foresight we did."
Any new gun control laws will affect the department as far as enforcement, Collins said. The department has a firearm shooting range for Parkersburg police officers to use.
"We have always tried to be responsible when conducting firearms training," Collins said. "The mere cost of ammunition has always kept us in check, and with the looming ammunition shortage, we will likely have to tighten up that much more."
However, police officers have to practice their shooting, he said.
The city police department uses a Simunition weapon for training. Collins said the weapon projects simulated bullets that are painful when struck by. He said they leave a paint-like mark on their target.
"It's not a solution to the shortage problem, but it does give us another option for the extra training we try to get in," Collins said of the Paintball-like weapon. "The downside is this round costs more than any of the real ammunition (city officers) buy."