From staff and wire reports
More than 76,000 licenses to carry concealed weapons were issued in Ohio last year — the highest number reported in the state since the licensing began in 2004, the state attorney general reported Wednesday.
Statistics released from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office show 64,650 new licenses and 12,160 renewal licenses issued last year. The new licenses were also the most in a single year since Ohio’s law allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns went into effect.
The numbers for 2012 were a big increase over the previous year, when just more than 54,000 were issued, including 49,828 new concealed-carry licenses.
The previous combined one-year high was more than 73,000 in 2009.
The statistics are reported by county sheriffs, who must report concealed handgun license statistics quarterly to a commission within the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The county statistics are somewhat misleading. That’s because Ohio law allows license applicants to file their request with the sheriff of the county where they live or a neighboring county.
That provision of the law is the likely reason why some counties with relatively small populations reported issuing more licenses than much larger urban counties.
For example, Franklin County — Ohio’s second largest county with a population of nearly 1.2 million — saw the most licenses issued and renewed: 5,444.
But the county issuing the second highest number of licenses was suburban Lake County, which borders Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County, the state’s most populous county with a population of nearly 1.3 million.
Medina County, which also borders Cuyahoga County, also handled a large number of licenses — 1,733 new application and 569 renewals — the seventh most among the state’s 88 counties.
Medina’s total of 2,303 licenses was more than reported by neighboring Summit County, which has a population three times greater.
The attorney general’s office does not comment on the possible reasons behind the jump in concealed-carry licenses, but supporters on both sides of the issue have their own ideas.
Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said that he expected to see an increase in the number of licenses issued. He talked with instructors who provide the firearms safety training required for licenses, and “they have all had their classes sold out.”
“It’s all about personal safety, and people wanting to protect themselves and their families,” he said.
Irvine also said that he thinks gun-control efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration have influenced more people to apply for licenses.
“People think they need to get them now because they might not have the opportunity later,” Irvine said.
Hank Johnson, 70, of Springboro, in southwest Ohio, got his first license in November and said he is concerned about attacks on the Second Amendment that guarantees the right to own guns.
Johnson, who has used guns for hunting and recreational purposes for years, said he hadn’t previously carried a concealed handgun but wants “to be able to protect my friends and family.”
“I’m not out to shoot somebody, but I am out to protect myself,” Johnson said.
Those who oppose the concealed carry law also weren’t surprised by the increase. But Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, noted that the numbers still represent a small percentage of all Ohioans.
“The pro-gun groups have been selling fear, trying to tell people that the government is trying to take their guns away,” Hoover said. “And when you sell fear to people, this is what happens.”
She said efforts nationally to ban assault weapons and require better background checks are intended to reduce violence and “won’t take everyone’s guns away. But a lot of people are being told that.”
The coalition continues to oppose the concealed-carry law and believes more guns will just lead to more violence.
“Just because someone is a law-abiding good guy today, doesn’t mean he will be one tomorrow,” Hoover said.
There also was a record number of concealed carry licenses revoked in 2012, according to state statistics. Reasons for revoking licenses may include the license holder moving out of state or being convicted of certain types of crimes.