Concealed gun permits soar in Clark, Champaign

Clark County permits at highest level in a decade.

The number of new concealed carry permits issued locally increased last year, more than doubling in Champaign County.

In Clark County, 809 CCW permits were issued last year, the highest number of new permits since 2004, the first year the state’s concealed carry law went into effect. In Champaign County, 626 new CCW licenses were issued last year, up from 281 in 2012.

Across Ohio, permits have reached an all-time high, with almost 97,000 new licenses issued in 2013.

County officials agree a number of circumstances are influencing the rise — including a response to proposed stricter gun control laws on a national level, Lt. Christopher Copeland of the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office said.

“People have been reacting to that nationwide,” he added.

Many people also want to carry a concealed weapon as a precautionary step of protecting themselves if the need arises, said Dana Tackett, a CCW permit holder and the owner of the Miami Valley Shooting Grounds indoor shooting range on East Leffel Lane.

“It is far better to have a skill you don’t need than a need for a skill you don’t have,” he said.

Tackett, also a retired officer from the Dayton Police Department, emphasized the liability CCW holders carry alongside their weapons.

“There is an inherent responsibility to having a gun, just like there is a responsibility to having a child,” he said. “You have to take care of it; it has to be safe.”

But some anti-gun groups and activists see the rise in CCW holders across the state as a threat to those who choose not to carry a weapon.

“We do not support CCWs because we believe people have the right to know there is a firearm in their presence,” said Amy Pulles, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

The coalition, based in Columbus, is lobbying against bills proposed in the Statehouse that would “weaken” the state’s current CCW laws and restrictions.

House Bill 203, or an Ohio version of “stand your ground” laws, would modify the current laws for using force as a means of self-defense. Another proposed change, House Bill 231, would allow CCW holders to carry their weapons in places that are currently banned, such as places of worship, school safety zones, college campuses and daycare facilities.

Concealed carry applicants must complete a list of requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit, including a 12-hour training and competency certification course.

Dick Martin, a CCW holder and a registered CCW certification course instructor, teaches through the Western Ohio Personal Safety and Firearm Training Group. It is a nonprofit organization that holds training courses at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

The group has structured a course based on the assumption that each student walking through the door has never handled a gun before.

“We start from the ground up, with safety being the No. 1 priority because you cannot call back a careless bullet,” Martin said.

In Clark and Champaign counties, anyone registering for a new license or renewing their old license must make an appointment with the sheriff’s office. The appointment process was put into place because administrators who process the applications were inundated with lines, causing as many as 25 applicants a day to wait hours.

“We had people waiting in the lobby for two or so hours,” said Jim Stouffer, the concealed carry administrator for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

With the appointment system, Stouffer schedules 12 appointments daily Monday through Wednesday and most, if not every, slot is filled.

Champaign County also has a scheduling system and the flow of appointments has remained constant week to week, said Copeland.

Through February of this year, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office has processed 48 new CCW permits. Based on these numbers, Stouffer doesn’t believe his office will see the high numbers of new licenses requested that they saw in 2013.

Residents can apply for a permit in the county they live in or an adjacent county. As many as half of the applications Champaign County processes are actually residents of Clark County, Copeland.

Many Clark County applications also are filed by Champaign County residents, administrators said.

Over the past few years, Tackett said he has seen more women signing up for CCW classes and practicing their shooting skills. Pam Oliver, of Springfield and a concealed permit holder, said she encourages women to take the course, even if they don’t ever intend to carry a gun.

“You’re actually more aware of your surroundings when you’re carrying a loaded gun, when you know the workings of a gun and how to shoot … It gives you an edge,” she said.

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