Washtenaw County is on pace to set another new record for applications for “concealed-carry” weapons (CCW) permits.
A sign in the Washtenaw County administration building directs residents who want to apply for a concealed weapons license.
Whether more adults legally able to carry guns enhances or erodes public safety is a matter of debate. What’s not in doubt is that more community members want the option: A member of about 1 in every 20 households in the county now holds a permit.
The number climbed in late 2008 and 2009 as people across the U.S. acted on concerns that Democratic leadership in Washington might promote restrictions on firearms, according to law enforcement officials.
The upward trend has continued in Washtenaw County, fueled – according to gun-rights sympathizers – by continuing worry about potential legislative restrictions, along with concerns about crime and shrinking public-safety budgets.
So far this year, 1,019 county residents have applied for permits. If that rate continues, the county would see a more than 20% increase over 2009’s record-setting 2,255 applications.
“It’s amazing,” says retired Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputy Ernie Milligan, who chairs the county’s concealed weapons licensing board, which held its monthly meeting this week. “In the past year or so, I’ve started to see roadside signs advertising CCW classes. That may help fuel it, but there’s a fear factor, too.”
Under legislation that liberalized Michigan’s gun laws in 2001, state residents 21 and older who complete a safety course can apply for a permit to carry concealed weapons. Criminal convictions and mental-health problems can disqualify applicants. But unlike the “may-issue” law it replaced, the 2001 “shall-issue” law leaves local gun licensing boards with little room for subjectivity. For the most part, an application yields a permit.
In 2010, 983 permits have been issued so far in Washtenaw County. Seven applications were denied. [Full Story]