PARKERSBURG - The Wood County Sheriff's Department has handled more than 1,400 applications for concealed firearms permits since the first of this year, more than it did in all of 2012.
Chief Tax Deputy Bob Tranquill said many applicants were concerned new laws would take away their right to bear arms.
National lawmakers started talking stronger gun control legislation after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., both in 2012.
Supporters of gun rights said the proposed tighter controls will only penalize law-abiding gunowners and would do very little to get guns out of the hands of violent offenders.
"During January, February and March, we were swamped," Tranquill said of permit processing so far this year. "A lot of people panicked. People were afraid they were going to have their rights taken away. That is what people have been telling us who have come up to the window."
Personnel in the Sheriff's Tax Office said 1,360 applications were actually approved for permits by the end of July this year. There is a $100 application fee that includes a background check, the permit itself and an identification card.
Applicants are also required to complete a handgun safety course, at their own expense. A number of qualified instructors can be found in the phone book, tax office personnel said.
The requirements for a West Virginia concealed weapon permit include:
* Being a resident of the state and of the county in which the application is filed;
* Be at least 21 years of age or be at least 18 years of age and be 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 under indictment for any felony;
* Not have been adjudicated mentally incompetent by any court;
* Be physically and mentally competent to carry a concealed handgun; this provision is vague but has not led to known abuses; and
* Have successfully completed one of several specified forms of handgun training.