PARKERSBURG - The number of applications for permits to carry concealed weapons is way up this year, Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt said.
According to the sheriff's office, in 2009 there were 1,056 applications filed; in 2010, 704; in 2011, 1,110; in 2012, 1,427. Last month 280 applications were filed compared to 105 in January 2012.
"The number of applications has gone out of sight in the last year," Merritt said.
The required state application process for a concealed weapons license usually takes 12-15 days, Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt said. However, Merritt has up to 45 days to decide whether a permit should be issued. The sheriff is responsible for oversight of the permits. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
Included in the numbers are renewals as the permits are valid for five years. Of the 1,427 last year, 19 were address changes; 561 were renewals and 866 were first-time applicants.
Under West Virginia law "any resident of West Virginia who meets the non-discretionary statutory qualifications shall be issued a license to carry concealed pistols or revolvers by the sheriff of his or her county of residence."
A background check is required, Merritt said, but few applications are rejected after the check.
The majority of those applying are "regular people" who are concerned about their protection, Merritt said.
"About 35 percent of the applicants are women," he said. "There are a lot of break-ins; they have children; they are afraid, these are things we hear everyday. I have a concealed weapons carry permit when I was off for four years. It not so much for me, I can take care of myself, but I carry it for others, to protect my family," Merritt said.
Previously, the permitting process was done through the courts.
The permit process includes required training for handling and firing of a handgun as outlined in state code. A copy of the certificate of completion from the certified training course is to be submitted with the application.
The process takes from 12-15 days, but up to 45 days is allowable, Merritt said.
The permit applies only to pistols and revolvers.
"It's sad, but with the state of things today everybody is scared something is going to happen to them," Merritt said. "We are seeing more breaking and enterings. We recently picked up someone who had multiple felony warrants on them from Virginia. There are a lot of people out of work and some are desperate. There is a lot of violence."
The applications are taken in the sheriff's department's tax office in the Judge Black Courthouse Annex. A full-time employee works on the permits and another part-timer is needed to help, Merritt said.
The application asks if the applicant is addicted to alcohol or drugs, if the individual has been convicted of a felony, convicted of violence involving a weapon or an act of domestic violence, is under indictment or has criminal charges pending. They are asked if they are serving a sentence, on parole or probation on a charge of domestic violence, or subject to a restraining order for domestic violence.
Applicants for concealed weapons permits are also asked if they have "ever been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent" and whether they are physically and mentally competent to carry a pitol or revolver.
"A lot of people think that providing the information regarding the mental capacity of an individual is a violation of their rights," Merritt said. "But where do their rights stop and where do ours start? I feel for them, but many of the recent shootings have involved individuals with problems in that area."
Officials admit some things are left to the honesty of the applicant and are difficult to check, although the background check is detailed.
The permit still does not not allow individuals to carry the handgun anywhere there is notice posted that guns are prohibited, such as in schools and government buildings.
The applicants also must provide a copy of their driver's license.
Merritt said there is a reciprocity agreement with many other states so the permits are recognized in other states, but not all.
For more information about concealed carry permits go to www.usacarry.com/westvirginia.