By Joe Beck
The number of permits for carrying concealed firearms soared in 2013, according to records compiled by the clerks of circuit court in Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties.
The increase was concentrated heavily in the first three or four months of the year, around the same time that Congress was hotly debating gun control proposals. The proposals died amid heavy backlash by gun rights activists and reports from gun shops of booming sales to those fearing new firearms restrictions were on the way.
Warren County's 2013 figures were typical. The number of concealed handgun permits issued rose in 2013 to 879 with 437, almost half the total coming in the first four months of the year. The months following were more in line with the monthly patterns from 2012. Warren County issued a total of 662 permits in 2012, which was also a sharp increase from the 404 permits issued in 2011.
Jennifer Sims, the clerk of courts in Warren County, described a hectic period at the beginning of 2013 when "practically everybody walking through the door, it was for a concealed handgun permit."
President Obama began a push for gun control legislation at the beginning of the year, weeks after an elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., left more than 20 students and educators dead from gunshots. Around the same time as the Connecticut shootings, an incident in Shenandoah County led to consideration of new school security measures, although the arrest of a man at a local school did not involve a gun.
"That probably had a major impact," Sims said of the effect the political climate had on the number of permits issued early in the year.
Frederick County's concealed handgun permits jumped to 1,745 in 2013 from 1,301 in 2012. The first three months of 2013 accounted for 751 of the total.
The 2013 total represented a 45 percent increase over the 951 permits issued in Frederick County 2008.
The story was much the same in Shenandoah County, although the totals for 2013 were not complete. The clerk of circuit courts office issued 1,043 permits from Jan. through November, a major increase over the 725 permits issued in 2012.
The 449 permits issued in the first three months of 2013 was almost triple the 153 recorded in 2012 and only about 100 fewer than the 556 issued in the entire year during 2008.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org