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Surging numbers: Concealed-carry gun permit applications increase in wake of Sandy Hook shooting

Adam Orr/AMT
Ashe County Sheriffs Office Gun Permit Coordinator Sandra Prange works closely with local
residents looking to secure a concealed carry permit. Over the past nine years, Prange has seen
the number of permit holders in the county increase from approximately 250 to more than

Originally published: Jan. 10, 2013
Last modified: Jan. 10, 2013

Adam Orr

Local officials registered an upsurge in applications for concealed-carry weapon permits after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newton, Conn., officials at the Ashe County Sheriff's said. 

"When it's all said and done, I think this is going to be a record month for permits," said Prange. "November and December are usually busy months anyway, but questions and requests (for CCW permits) have increased since the (Sandy Hook Elementary) school shooting."

On Dec. 28, Prange said she was working on 11 CCW permit applications, and was expecting to start work on two more before the end of the month.

Of Ashe County's approximately 27,000 resident population, 1,054 are authorized to carry concealed weapons by state and local authorities, following an intensive application process. 

Those figures have increased by more than 12 percent from the past year, from 940 permit holders in December 2011, according to Prange. 

"We see the number of permit holders slowly increasing all the time," said Ashe County Sheriff James Williams. "But I think after Sandy Hook, applications have really started to jump."

On Dec. 14 suspected gunman Adam Lanza, a 20-year old Connecticut man, opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.

Twenty elementary age children were killed, as well as six adults at the school.

A separate victim, identified as Lanza's mother, was also found shot dead at home in Newtown.

The worst ever shooting at a U.S. elementary schools, the violence was second only to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, which left 33 people dead, including the gunman.

Proposed legislation

The Newtown shootings, reportedly carried out with the aid of a .223 caliber military-style rifle, has California Senator (D) Dianne Feinstein promising to introduce legislation designed to curb gun violence. 

Feinstein promised to introduce legislation on the first day of the new congressional session designed to "stop the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices," according to Feinstein's website

On Dec. 17, Feinstein said she had worked with her staff for more than a year to craft the new legislation.

"It will be carefully focused on the most dangerous guns that have killed so many people over the years while protecting the rights of gun owners by exempting hundreds of weapons that fall outside the bill's scope," said Feinstein. "We must take these dangerous weapons of war off our streets."

Feinstein wrote the original assault weapons ban in 1993, which went into effect in 1994 and ended in 2004.

According to the currently available summary (available the bill targets "120-specifically named firearms, certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine, and semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds."

Feinstein also said the bill is designed to strengthen the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban by reducing “workarounds,” bans “large capacity,” ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds, and exempts more than 900 specifically named weapons used for hunting and sporting purposes.

“Grandfathered,” weapons would need to be registered under the National Firearms Act and would include background check of owner and any transferee, type and serial number of firearm, positive identification including photograph and fingerprint, certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate state or local law, and dedicated funding to Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to implement registration.

‘Every time something comes up in the news ... we see an increase in permit applications.'

Although Feinstein's legislation is specifically written to cover military-style weapons, Williams said CCW permit applications are likely to rise. 

"Every time something comes up in the news about assault weapons, clips or new regulation, we see an increase in permit applications," said Williams. “I think that's the main reason we're seeing this big increase in interest.” 

Local concealed carry instructor Charles Young, who has taught certification classes since the mid-1990s, said he has also noticed an increase in the number of local residents looking to earn their CCW. 

“Interest (in certification classes) has definitely picked up,” said Young, who taught one CCW certification class in December and has two others scheduled in January.

 Young said he offers classes whenever he has interest from at least four or five potential students.

“The Newtown shooting has definitely brought about more interest,” said Young, who also mentioned Feinstein's proposed legislation as driving CCW activity. “Anytime I read about federal legislation concerning magazine capacity, it worries me with handguns.”

Even though Feinstein's proposed bill is written to regulate rifles, the bill's language concerning magazine capacity could leave handguns open to new regulations. 

“Anytime I hear magazine capacity mentioned in terms of legislation, it worries you,” said Young. “I would think the (ammunition) capacity of most modern handguns would make them (vulnerable) to this kind of legislation, so I think that might drive (CCW) interest as well.” 


Jefferson firearms dealer Phillip Grady said interest in weapons and ammunition has picked up in the last several months - so much, in fact, that the last quarter of 2012 Grady's largest sales quarter since opening Grady Precision Cartridge three years ago. 

"The last quarter of 2012 was the biggest quarter we've ever had, by double," said Grady. "Busy is an understatement." 

The re-election of President Barack Obama, the threat of a new assault weapons ban and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary have been the primary driver of increased sales, according to Grady.

"We've definitely seen interest pickup," said Grady, "primarily with bulk ammo, but also with semi-automatic pistols and rifles." 

Ammunition, in particular, has been a big seller. 

"My brother and I purchased 20,000 rounds of .223 in the last quarter, and we're down to between three and four thousand rounds left," said Grady. "And I don't know how long that (supply) will last. It's nothing to move several thousand rounds in a day." 

Grady's not alone; Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said his department is facing similar difficulties purchasing weapons for his Special Response Team (SRT). A recent order of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, the same style of weapon carried by Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza, have been hard to come by. 

"We just recently placed our order for our (SRT) team and the wait time on those rifles is eight months," said Williams. "We've not even really started the hunt to find ammunition, but I'm expecting that to be a challenge."

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.