by Caitlin Huston
Gun sales and gun permits are sky-rocketing locally as the debate on gun control heats up across the country.
After President Obama and other lawmakers vowed to crackdown on gun laws, area sheriff’s departments have seen an increase in residents seeking lifetime permits. While more residents are buying semi-automatic rifles out of fear of a national ban, Cass County Sheriff Randy Pryor said many do not yet own guns, but want to make sure they will be able to in the future.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Department sent 62 gun permits for concealed handguns to the state in December 2012. That’s an increase by nearly eight times over December 2011, when the sheriff’s department sent eight to the state.
“It’s quite a huge increase,” Pryor said.
The rush began shortly after Obama spoke out on gun control as a result of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Pryor said.
“I think there’s concern by the public that they may not be able to buy a handgun,” Pryor said.
January is shaping up to be a busy month as well, with 36 permits sent as of Jan. 9. The total permits for the month in January 2012 was 23, Pryor said.
Similar record-breaking numbers are cropping up in Miami and Carroll counties.
Carroll County sent 41 gun permits to the state in December and had 38 permits sent in January as of Friday. Mary England, the matron of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, said most of the permits have been for lifetime concealed weapons.
“I would say probably 90 percent of them are lifetime,” England said.
In Miami County, the sheriff’s department processed about 13 gun permits a day in December, according to Kim Brown, matron of the sheriff’s department.
“It’s quite a tremendous, tremendous jump,” Brown said.
The sheriff’s department did not have exact numbers of permits issued in December. But each department receives $50 for lifetime permits and $10 for four-year permits, and Brown said they collected $5,190 during the month. That’s compared to the $1,900 they collected in November.
In Cass County, a majority of the gun applications were submitted by gun owners coming in to renew their four-year permit or upgrade to a lifetime permit, Pryor said.
Gun stores around the area are also seeing record-breaking sales.
Detective Dale Campbell with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department owns Campbell’s Firearms, a gun store in Royal Center. Campbell said he’s seen an increase in gun sales since December.
Campbell said the in-demand guns are high-capacity magazines and AR-15 rifles — a weapon that is at the center of the gun control debates due to its use in the Connecticut shooting and other recent shootings.
“All guns have become a desirable thing right now,” Campbell said.
AR-15 rifles are also leading sales at Down By the Tracks, a firearms store in Galveston.
Manager Harley Carwell said his sales have dramatically increased as people are concerned there will be a “national ban” on firearms.
“It’s about tripled what the normal amount would be,” Carwell said.
Campbell said he’s been receiving more calls from outside of the county, including some from outside Indiana. Campbell said supplies at most gun stores are limited, so people are having to go farther to find specific firearms.
“They’re going to go wherever they can find what they want,” Campbell said.
Pryor said there are still residents new to gun ownership who have been coming in due to panic about gun restrictions. Each time someone comes to the department for a permit, Pryor said he talks with them about the responsibility of carrying a gun and the places they’re not allowed to take the weapon in Indiana like in courthouses, federal buildings and airports.
“There are things they need to think about other than just getting a permit,” Pryor said.
Pryor said he especially emphasizes these points for younger residents.
The sheriff’s department can deny applications in their initial stages because of felony convictions or a lengthy criminal record. Pryor said he has also denied permits to people who have received psychiatric care or have been treated for mental illness — a section residents fill out on the permit.
“Of course if a person comes in and I feel them not to be mentally stable, I could do that,” Pryor said.
Most people are approved because they know the requirements, he said.
While Pryor agreed that the number of gun purchases does mean that more people in Cass County are armed, he said not all of the residents seeking a permit will carry a gun.
“I’ve had people coming here and getting a permit that have no intention of getting a gun,” Pryor said.
Steve Rhodes of Logansport came into the sheriff’s department Thursday to purchase a lifetime permit. He had purchased a four-year permit but had let it expire several years ago. Rhodes said he doesn’t currently have a gun but wanted to make sure he had the permit, in case it was later restricted by law.
“I want to have the process in place,” Rhodes said.
And while more people are going out to purchase firearms, Pryor said the sheriff’s department is not concerned about the high levels of gun ownership.
“If proper checks are done, I don’t think it’s a concern to us at the present time,” Pryor said.
Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.