Area residents who want to own or carry a concealed gun offer two primary reasons for that decision: A desire to defend themselves and their loved ones, and a growing concern that they might not be able to do so in the near future.
Some are crime victims. Others are not. But they all share a common belief that now is the time to be prepared.
In the third quarter of 2012, the most recent numbers available, 13,949 Ohio concealed handgun licenses were issued, and 3,447 such licenses were renewed, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office. That surpasses a previous record of 12,127 licenses issued in the third quarter of 2004, according to the Buckeye Firearms Association, a statewide political action committee that says it seeks to defend firearm rights.
Centerville resident Rick Schairbaum, 55, is a potential license-seeker. One recent evening, he sat in a classroom outside a Dryden Road shooting range, the SimTrainer Academy, hoping to land a spot in a basic firearms class that was about to start.
“I’ve never, ever thought about owning a gun,” said Schairbaum, who currently does not own a firearm. “But I think there are some significant things going on.”
Earlier that day, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., had pledged to introduce legislation that would reimpose a ban on so-called assault weapons that expired in 2004 and outlaw ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Feinstein’s bill follows the massacre last month at Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were slain by a lone gunman in an elementary school.
Since then, there have been calls for stronger control of guns. President Obama has signed executive orders and introduced legislation that advocates say will reduce gun violence.
Others, including Schairbaum, say the president and other gun-control advocates are going too far.
“There are changes of a political nature and the seeming attack on the Second Amendment,” he said. “I believe our gun rights are being infringed upon.”
Schairbaum offered another reason for wanting to become a gun owner.
“I just want to be able to protect my family,” he said.
Holly L., a 33-year-old Mason resident, said she will never forget the April 2011 morning when someone tried to break into her former Orlando, Fla. condominium.
Holly, who lives alone, spoke on the condition she not be fully identified. The Dayton Daily News verified her identity.
Holly said someone tried to jimmy open a door to the condo before a neighbor’s dog barked and scared off the would-be intruder. The event drove Holly to take action, she said.
She went to a shooting range that day, rented a gun, and put a few bullet holes in a paper silhouette of a human figure.
She took the target home with her and hung it on the inside of a sliding glass door so that anyone standing at the door could see it. She thought of it as a message to anyone who would do her harm.
“I think that would do more to scare someone,” said Holly, a radiation therapist at an area university.
She took classes to obtain a concealed weapon perment at Florida and, later, in Ohio after she moved here. She also took basic gun safety and training classes.
In Ohio, if a student completes and passes a concealed weapon class, a certificate of competency is granted. Students can then take the certificate, a completed license application and a passport-sized color photo to their county sheriff’s office after making an appointment.
If the student passes a criminal background check and mental competency check, submits to having fingerprints taken, attests to having read an Ohio attorney general’s pamphlet on concealed-carry laws and pays a fee, a license may be granted.
But the waiting list for licenses is so long, Holly’s appointment with her local sheriff isn’t until May 22, even though she completed a concealed weapon class this month.
Holly doesn’t mind. She said she thinks it’s “great” that so many Ohioans want to obtain concealed weapon licenses. “I think more women should,” she said.
So does Dawn Scholl, 42, of Centerville. “I’d highly recommend it,” she said.
Scholl’s reason for learning how to use a handgun is similar to Holly’s. She said she was a crime victim. She declined to offer details about what happened to her, but she said learning how to use a firearm has made her feel safer. “It has given me confidence.”
“Who wants to be a victim?” Scholl said. “Nobody does.”
Tanya Wells, 37, of Trenton, completed her concealed weapon class in November because she doesn’t want to become a crime victim.
“I am now a single mom,” Wells said. “I want to know that should it ever be needed, I am able and equipped to protect my daughter and myself.”
At the recent SimTrainer class, women outnumbered men 14 to seven. That was fine with instructor Jim Kokaly. He’s encouraged that more women are learning how to use firearms, he said.
“I like having a wide diversity of people out on the range,” Kokaly said.
Joe Eaton, a firearms instructor who lives near Springboro and serves as spokesman for the Buckeye Firearms Association in Southwestern Ohio, is encouraged by the rising number of concealed weapon applicants.
“The fact is that (concealed weapon licenses) work for people who want to protect themselves and their families,” Eaton said.
Eaton and other firearms instructors argue that, almost by definition, those who follow the process Ohio has outlined for obtaining a concealed weapon license are on the right side of the law.
James Adams — a Springfield-area instructor who teaches students on his Shrine Road farm — says concern is better directed at those who aren’t pursuing concealed weapon licenses.
“Do you think for an instant that the bad guys in Dayton, Ohio are going to follow the rules?” Adams said.
The firearms association says that less than six-tenths of one percent of all concealed weapons licenses have ever been revoked for any reason, including a license holder moving from Ohio or dying.
According to the state attorney general’s office, 547 licenses were revoked in the third quarter of 2012. That’s about 3.9 percent of total licenses issued in that quarter.
“Historically, the people who are going out and getting the licenses are not the ones causing the problems,” Eaton said.
In December, the number of federal government-instituted background checks in Ohio on potential gun owners totaled 102,531, up 64 percent from December 2011, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.