LIMA — Remarks on the campaign trail during last year’s fight for the White House led to the biggest year yet for people obtaining their concealed handgun licenses in the area.
There were 907 new licenses issued in Allen County last year, 646 in Auglaize County and 360 in Putnam County. The numbers were slightly higher than 2013 for the three counties when former President Barack Obama made a hard push for new gun control in 2013 following a school shooting.
CHL Instructor Steve Farmer of Insight Firearms Training Development said the No. 1 reason students cited for taking his class was the presidential election and the potential to rewrite gun rights through the legal system. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton set off alarm bells when she said the Supreme Court was wrong in a landmark 2008 decision supporting the individual right for a person to have a gun, Farmer said.
The highest court in the land said the Second Amendment, as it had for well more than 200 years, gives a person the right to have a gun for a host of lawful reasons, Farmer said.
“When she said she would appoint a justice to overturn the Heller decision, which would have essentially prohibited people from owning a gun, many people, including people who never considered owning a gun before wanted to exercise that right,” Farmer said.
Farmer said he heard many times from people upset with lawmakers wanting to play politics with their right to be able to protect their family or themselves.
Auglaize County Sheriff Solomon said politics was one of the reasons he heard, as well.
“It’s their right and they don’t want that right to be taken away, Solomon said.
Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker said he hears multiple reasons but the most common is political.
“A lot of them say they want to exercise their Second Amendment right,” he said.
The number of new concealed handgun licenses issued in Ohio have not been tallied for the entire state but through the first three quarters of last year there were 93,851 concealed handgun licenses issued, which was 22,262 more than all of 2015. The highest number of new permits in all of 2013 was 96,972.
Gun sales also skyrocketed last year with FBI background checks to buy a gun at 27.5 million last year. Those numbers remained high during the past eight years Obama was in office especially whenever Obama spoke out for new gun control laws.
While the number of firearms sold and concealed carriers have increased, murders by firearm have declined. In 2007, there were 9,532 murders by firearm compared to 8,211 in 2012 and 7,453 in 2014, according to FBI records.
The right to personal protection was the second most popular reason to seek CHL training, Farmer said.
Solomon also said he heard from people concerned about the increase in violence in the past year or so.
Farmer, who also is a police officer, asks each of his students why they are taking the class and many were considered about crime, the violence in society, an increase in juvenile crime and even terrorists attacks.
“They know police can’t be everywhere. When something happens and that moment is real and there’s no officer around, people want the ability to protect their children or themselves,” he said.
Another trend Farmer said that is growing rapidly is the number of women obtaining their concealed handgun license. He said women frequently make up half the students or more in his classes.
Siefker also hears from people concerned about their safety.
“They do it for self-defense. A lot of them want to be more safe and get a gun,” Siefker said.
With a new president in the White House who supports the Second Amendment, Farmer is not sure what the next four years will bring for his business. He doesn’t expect as many students to take concealed handgun classes that a political scare brings but hopes more students will sign up for his advanced weapons training classes.
“I tell every student in every concealed carry class this is only be the beginning of their training,” he said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.