LIMA — The number of people obtaining licenses to carry a concealed handgun exploded in 2009 up as high as 500 percent in the region.
“I hope criminals think twice before they attempt to steal from someone or harm someone,” said Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon, who saw the number of concealed-carry licenses go up by 500 percent.
Solomon’s department issued 464 new licenses in 2009 compared to 93 the previous year. But his agency is not alone. Putnam County Sheriff Jim Beutler issued 139 new licenses compared to 31 in 2008, an increase of 448 percent.
Allen County more than doubled its number issued at 684 last year compared to 323 in 2008. The county has 1,867 license holders, although some are from nearby counties. The number of license holders in Allen County represents nearly 2 percent of the population, which mirrors the state as a whole.
Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish said people obtaining licenses should put criminals on notice that people are serious about protecting themselves. And those people come from all walks of life from women to men, old, young and all professions, he said.
“With the numbers growing, it’s a huge risk if you’re committing some type of offense you don’t know who may be carrying,” Crish said.
The numbers include a slight increase of 5 percent in women obtaining their licenses.
“There’s a lot of single mothers. They’re just concerned for their safety,” he said.
Insight Firearms Training and Development Instructor Steve Farmer said criminals should find a different line of work or risk the potential for a deadly confrontation. Farmer teaches concealed-carry training courses, which Ohio law requires 12 hours on laws, safety and marksmanship.
“Law enforcement is only minutes away when seconds count. People realize law enforcement is not their personal bodyguard,” Farmer said.
Overall, self-protection and protecting a person’s family is the No. 1 reason Crish heard from those applying for their licenses.
Early in the year, people were afraid of the possibility of new gun laws, something many referred to as the Obama Effect after President Barack Obama, who some say strongly opposes guns. But that faded after the first three months of the year while those seeking their licenses remained well above average for the previous five years, Solomon said.
Local sheriffs embrace concealed-carry.
“These are law-abiding citizens who have their concealed-carry license and I believe should have that right,” Solomon said.
Crish said one of the best things that has come from it has been the education it provides gun owners not only on gun safety but the law, which makes it clear deadly force can only be used when the threat of deadly force or great physical harm exists.
Beutler predicts the number of people obtaining their licenses will remain above average this year but not as high as the large spike in early 2009.