View Full Version : Conceal Handgun Permits Surge 60% post Virginia Tech. "Gun Free Zone" Slaughter

04-12-2008, 9:44 AM
Conceal Handgun Permits Surge 60% post Virginia Tech. "Gun Free Zone" Slaughter


Va. Grants 60% More Permits For Guns
Concealed-Carry Surge Tied to Va. Tech Killings

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 12, 2008; B01

The number of Virginians who obtained a permit to carry a concealed weapon jumped 60 percent last year over 2006, an increase that many gun experts say was a reaction to the fatal shootings of 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech.

In Northern Virginia, the numbers were much the same. In Fairfax County, there were 2,471 concealed-carry permits issued in 2007, a 64 percent increase. In Prince William County, the number rose to 1,636, a nearly 59 percent gain. In Loudoun, the number of permits issued was 962, a 52 percent increase.

People applying for a concealed-weapon permit do not have to explain why they want one. But most experts think the Virginia Tech shootings, in which a heavily armed student met no resistance as he went from classroom to classroom firing, could explain the sudden increase in applications.

Some gun rights supporters noted that the university had lobbied against legislation that would have required colleges to honor concealed-carry permits.

"They wanted to create an environment where students and faculty can feel safe," said Joel Kliesen, manager of the Dominion Shooting Range in Richmond. "A lot of folks would rather be safe than feel safe."

The shooting incidents in turn create more publicity about gun-related issues and probably inspire more people to arm themselves, gun control supports said. Both gun-control activists and members of law enforcement noted that those people who take the time to get a permit are largely law-abiding and unlikely to commit a crime.

Gun stores report increased sales and increased participation in training classes. Completing a firearms safety class as well as a background check are prerequisites for obtaining a concealed weapons permit in Virginia. Permits are issued by the state's circuit courts and are good for five years, but they can be renewed if there is no good cause to refuse the renewal.

"More people are wanting guns," said Robert Jensen, a salesman at Virginia Arms in Manassas. "They're not believing the myth that guns cause crime. It's like saying flies cause trash. We've got more people doing competitive shooting and more people taking defensive training, and that's all around the gun industry."

The number of people approved to carry concealed weapons in Virginia has gone up and down in recent years. In 2002, a year after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the number of permits granted went up almost 100 percent, from about 15,000 to more than 30,000. But the annual number soon drifted down into the 20,000s until 2007, when it shot up to 43,927. The rise was first reported yesterday in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

State police said that more than 152,000 people currently hold valid concealed-carry permits. In addition to concealed carrying, openly carrying a weapon is legal in Virginia and is done regularly by gun rights activists.

"People are realizing that it's not just crazy people out there carrying guns, it's everyday people," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. "The stigma that developed in the '80s and '90s about guns, that's died down tremendously."

Van Cleave pointed out that student groups that favor concealed-carry laws on college campuses have grown rapidly, first after Virginia Tech and then again after the shooting at Northern Illinois University in February. A student group at George Mason University in Fairfax is working for the right to carry concealed guns there.

James Plowman, the commonwealth's attorney of Loudoun County, noted that Virginia is "the opposite of D.C., where everybody who's carrying a gun is either a police officer or a criminal" because of laws largely prohibiting gun ownership. "That restriction hasn't really helped out their crime situation much. All you're doing is hamstringing the people who want to protect themselves."

Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said Virginia had not done enough to keep guns out of criminals' hands in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. "I think what we should be more concerned about is the next Cho can still get guns," referring to Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech gunman.

Kliesen said he saw greatly increased interest in guns for self-defense after the Harvey family was killed at home on New Year's Day 2006 in Richmond. "A lot of folks are realizing that, as much as the police would like to be there," Kliesen said, "the only person you can guarantee will be there if you're ever victimized by a criminal is . . . you."