More Johnson County residents have received a license to carry a handgun over the past year, even as the debate over new national gun laws has quieted and as the lines at area gun shops have shortened.
At the end of December, 11,329 Johnson County residents had permits that allowed them to carry a handgun. By the end of September, that number had grown to 13,716, up 21 percent. The number of residents with permits rose statewide as well by 78,634, or 17.5 percent, according to data from the Indiana State Police.
More county residents started applying for gun permits and buying rifles, handguns and ammunition after mass shootings across the country, including the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December. U.S. lawmakers started considering whether stricter gun laws were necessary after the shootings, and people locally and across the country started worrying that certain types of guns and ammunition could be outlawed.
So many people in Indiana applied for permits that it took the state police, who typically have up to 60 days to process a permit request, about twice the time to process some applications, Capt. Dave Bursten said. And at gun shops, including Honey Creek Tackle in Bargersville, customers stood in lines that wrapped around the store to buy guns and ammunition.
So many people purchased bullets that it created an ammunition shortage for police departments, who had to limit the number of rounds fired during training and practices.
“That fear, that perception that some change was imminent drove a dramatic increase in the license to carry permits,” Bursten said.
No new national or state laws were passed, but the number of people requesting and getting gun permits is still rising, partly because news of crimes in Johnson County and around central Indiana has residents concerned for their safety, Honey Creek Tackle owner Jason Roberts said.
Between January and March, 470 more Johnson County residents had received gun permits. Nearly 800 got permits between April and June. And between July and September, another 1,133 people received permits, according to the state police data.
The state police typically receive and process between 4,000 and 5,000 permit requests each month, but at the end of last year and during the first few months of 2013, between 10,000 and 12,000 people across Indiana were applying for permits, Bursten said. That made it almost impossible for staff to process the applications quickly, and that’s why some applicants with common names, such as Smith, or who had the same names as convicted felons had to wait as long as 115 days to receive their permits, Bursten said.
Since then state police have added staff, and permit applications are now typically processed in one to three weeks, Bursten said.
Business at Honey Creek Tackle isn’t as busy this month as it was 10 months ago, when customers were worried about nationwide gun and ammunition bans. But Roberts is starting to see an increase from his average of 10 gun sales per day from hunters and residents who want to protect their homes.
Almost immediately after the Sandy Hook shooting, Roberts was selling between 20 and 30 guns per day. In about three days he sold 100 AR-15 rifles and had a difficult time keeping some guns and ammunition in stock, he said.
“What was literally on the shelf disappeared in a couple of days,” he said.
New customers aren’t as concerned about new laws that could restrict what they buy or own, Roberts said. But when residents hear about crimes, such as the robbery in Kensington Grove where a couple was bound and their house was ransacked in the middle of the night, more of them want to buy guns for their protection, Roberts said.