Sheriff Brian Siefker is hard-pressed to attach a reason to the uptick in the number of new concealed carry permits in Putnam County.
The increase is counter to what’s happening statewide, as statistics released by the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost show a significant decline in the number of concealed carry handgun permits issued across the state in 2019 as compared to one year earlier.
“There’s really no explanation, other than we’re a strong supporter of the Second Amendment here,” Siefker said. “It seems like I’m signing permit applications all the time. We’re getting quite a few new ones.”
More than 2,200 concealed carry permits have been issued in Putnam County since the program started. With some 31,000 residents in the county, that figure means nearly 14% of all county residents are licensed to carry a concealed weapon.
“The more the better,” said Siefker. “As long as they’re a law-abiding citizen, we have no problem issuing them permits.”
Three concealed carry permits issued in Putnam County were suspended last year. The sheriff said all were for domestic violence issues, which prompts an automatic suspension.
Siefker also noted that not all permits issued in his county go to county residents, as permits can be obtained in any county adjacent to the applicant’s county of residence.
Putnam County was the only area county showing an increase in permits from 2018. Its number of new permits were up 12% over 2018 figures, climbing from 109 in 2018 to 123 last year.
The state’s annual Concealed Handguns report revealed that 132,385 concealed carry licenses were issued in Ohio in 2019, a double-digit decrease from one year earlier. County sheriffs issued 54,426 new permits and 77,959 renewals in 2019. The permits must be renewed every five years. While Ohioans don’t need a license to legally carry a gun, a permit is required to conceal one.
The 2019 statewide numbers reflect decreases from the previous year of 21% both in new permits issued and renewals.
New permits in Allen County were down 19%, Auglaize County showed a 14% drop and Hardin County was down 67%. Mercer was down 9% and Van Wert showed a 22% decrease in permits issued in 2019.
Since the start of the concealed carry permit process in 2004, more than 8,000 licenses have been issued in Allen County. The most recent state report shows 514 new permits in 2019, down from the 641 licenses issued the previous year. Renewals numbered 857, down 11% from 967 in 2018.
Lt. Andre McConnahea, public information for the sheriff’s office, said a quick review of the statistics shows a cyclical pattern. “It looks like every other year since 2014 the number (of new permits issued) has gone up and down and up and down,” he said.
The number spiked more than usual in 2016, which McConnahea pointed out was a presidential election year.
“It went through the roof, from 551 (new permits) in 2015 to 907 in 2016,” he said. “Maybe people feared a change in the law based on who won the presidential election that year … I don’t know.”
The number of new permits issued statewide also peaked in the 2016 presidential election year when 117,953 concealed carry licenses were issued. Numbers have dropped annually since that time.
Hardin County issued 111 new permits last year, down from 345 in 2018. Auglaize County issued 256 new concealed carry permits in 2019, down 14% from 2018, and approved 455 renewals, a 19% decline. In Van Wert County, the 88 new permits issued reflected a 22% drop over the previous year, while license renewals were down 31%. New permits in Mercer County were down 9% and renewals dropped by 46% in 2019.
The top counties in Ohio in terms of the number of new concealed carry permits issued in 2019 were Franklin, 4,740; Lake, 4,422; Montgomery, 2,755; Clermont, 2,163; and Butler, 1,902.