GOSHEN — In the first 11 days of 2013, 174 people applied for handgun permits in Elkhart County, already surpassing the number of permit requests that were processed during the entire month of January last year.
Why more people are seeking gun permits is a complicated issue, and there's not a just one overriding answer, according to Capt. Jim Bradberry, who said people visit the sheriff's department's office in Goshen at all times during the week applying for new permits. But there's no question that the influx of permit requests caught Bradberry's attention.
Staff at the sheriff's department stayed busy in December when they handled a total of 236 applications, roughly three times as many that were submitted in June. Of those applications accepted in December, 83 have been approved, and the rest have either been rejected or are awaiting review by Indiana State Police.
Applying for a gun permit starts with an online application or a visit to the sheriff's department and electronic fingerprinting. A four-year permit is $10 with a state fee of $30, and lifetime permits are $40 or $50 plus state fees depending if the gun owner has a current valid license. The sheriff's department takes up to two weeks for a background check, and the state police could take a couple of months or more to process an application depending on the volume of requests coming through, Bradberry said.
A month after a tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama unveiled a plan Wednesday to curb gun violence. The $500 million plan calls for heightening school security, enhancing background checks for gun sales and bans on military-style assault weapons among other proposals.
Steve Evans, owner of Granger Guns just west of Elkhart County, said he started seeing more customers at his shop when the “government started making noise about regulating guns.”
“It's a major part of conversations around here,” he said.
Cory Wise, an Elkhart County resident, said he is not surprised that more people want to get their hands on gun permits.
“I think everybody just wants to get their permits before they can't get one anymore,” he said. “I would rather have it before anything gets in place.”
Wise, a firefighter who also works at Bennington Marine, had a gun permit a couple of years ago and recently decided to get a new permit.
“I have a handgun, and I decided in this day and age, I want to be able to protect my family if something were to arise,” he said.
Wise worries that the government is too focused on guns rather than getting to the root of the problem — mental health.
“It's sad to see what happened in Connecticut,” Wise said. “Obviously, our hearts go out to those families, but why not continue to look at the problem of mental illness? It's sad, and how do you start to prevent something like that from happening? Taking away guns isn't going to do it.”
Banning guns would be “ridiculous,” county resident Justin Randolph said in a message on Facebook.
“To think criminals won't get their hands on guns because they're banned is nothing more than wishful thinking,” he said. “How many things out there are banned but yet people still get their hands on them? If guns kill people, then cars make people drive drunk.”
As more people acquire gun permits, Bradberry said firearm safety should remain part of an ongoing conversation among gun owners.
“If you decide to carry a firearm or have one in your home, you really need to make sure that you pay a little extra money to get training if you've never handled a firearm before, and make sure you're up to date on the laws as far as what to do for protection,” Bradberry said. “Most of the time, people get a handgun permit because they want to protect themselves, so they need to make sure they are aware of what they can and cannot do.”