More central Ohioans are filing for licenses to carry concealed guns in Franklin County after the state legislature relaxed training requirements earlier this year.
So many applications are flooding into the Franklin County sheriff’s office that county commissioners will vote Tuesday on whether to hire an additional staff member to keep up with the higher volume of requests.
“Legislative changes made it easier for folks to get a (concealed-carry) permit,” said Chief Deputy Rick Minerd. “In the past, if you wanted to get a permit, it sounds like a good idea until you find out you have to get 12 hours training.”
In March, new state rules cut the number of training hours required to obtain a permit from 12 to eight, including six hours of classroom work that can be completed online. Another two hours of shooting instruction are required as well.
Since the new rules took effect, Minerd said, permit applications in Franklin County have spiked.
In the first six months of 2015, the Franklin County sheriff’s office issued, renewed or denied 4,095 permit applications, according to the Ohio attorney general’s office. In all of 2014, it dealt with 6,472 applications.
Statewide, permits are on pace to eclipse last year’s total but are moving at a slower pace than in Franklin County.
“It does tend to be up in the metropolitan areas and the surrounding counties to those metro areas,” said Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association. “In the more-rural, less-populated areas, it’s pretty consistent.”
State law allows applicants to file paperwork in either their county of residence or an adjoining county, and Cornwell said that can place a bigger burden on larger counties.
The high volume of applications coupled with scheduled time off for the county workers who review them has stressed the sheriff’s concealed-carry office, Minerd said.
The office reviews about 300 concealed-carry permits a day. That includes checking for warrants or violations that could result in a license suspension or revocation for current permit holders.
It also schedules about 40 appointments a day for applicants to be finger-printed and have their photos taken for ID cards and to review paperwork.
The office has five full-time-equivalent workers to process those applications and complete checks on current permit holders.
Adding another technician would relieve some of the added work. The sheriff’s office is asking commissioners to approve spending more than $60,000 from the county’s concealed-carry fund to pay for an additional employee through the end of the year and to earmark more money to complete Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation background checks.
About $50,000 would be used for the background checks, with about $10,000 reserved for the new employee.
As of Aug. 27, the county had taken in about $334,000 from concealed-carry permit application fees. In all of 2014, it collected about $397,000.
Concealed-carry classes have been fuller since the training requirements were relaxed earlier this year, said Matthew Grashel, an instructor at Affordable CCW.
Grashel’s organization runs monthly classes for about a dozen people, and those classes have been mostly full the past several months. Volunteer instructors teach the classes.
Columbus CCW has increased its classes at Cabela’s near Polaris from about two a month to nearly one a week since the law changed, instructor Christopher McGee said.
When the training requirements were longer, instructors had a lot of “filler” material, he said. Now, permit applicants can watch a series of videos online and then complete range training before their test.
“That was one of the big deterrents that kind of held some people off … the 12 hours,” McGee said. “A lot of them didn’t want to sit for 12 hours in a classroom.”