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Way off target

Patrol’s prediction of rush for concealed-gun permits exaggerated public’s interest
Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:40 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mel Chandler didn’t expect a huge demand for concealed-weapons permits after the state law took effect in March, and the numbers indicate he was right.

“They thought there’d be a lot of people applying for permits, but they thought there’d be gun fights in the streets, too,” said Chandler, who owns Second Amendment Gun Shop in Columbia. “And that didn’t happen, either.”

Based on the experiences of Texas, Oklahoma and other states with similar laws, the Missouri State Highway Patrol originally estimated 60,000 people would apply for permits here in the first year.

“It’s getting close to a year, and probably by the end of that time period, we’ll be at 14,000 to 14,500,” said Capt. Chris Ricks, a spokesman for the highway patrol.

From March through November, the highway patrol received 13,748 requests for background checks from Missouri sheriff’s departments, which is an indicator of statewide figures for conceal-carry permit applications.

The law passed during the legislative session in 2003, but Gov. Bob Holden vetoed it. In September 2003, the General Assembly overrode the veto, but it was delayed until the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the law in February. The court also ruled the law was an unfunded mandate for some counties because the $100 permit fee did not cover the cost of issuing permits, violating the Hancock Amendment. Jackson County, St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis are not issuing permits.

Although the St. Louis and Kansas City areas constitute a large part of the state’s population, Ricks said that even if those areas begin to issue permits, the number of applicants statewide would probably reach only 26,000.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department is not issuing permits but has authorized the Hallsville and Ashland police departments to do so. Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Reddin said the department chose not to issue permits in order to avoid potential lawsuits stemming from the Hancock Amendment.

Ashland has issued 45 permits, and Hallsville 302. Ashland police clerk Jane Totten said the number of applications varies each week, from two or three to none. Hallsville issued most of its 302 permits early on, and the department probably receives two applications a week, Hallsville police Lt. Tony Fields said.

Reddin said the sheriff’s department has received no reports of permit-holders improperly using weapons.

Before the concealed-weapons law, people could have firearms in their vehicles as long as the guns were not loaded and as long as passengers had no access to them .

“The way carry-and-conceal is now is the individual who has a legal right to purchase a concealable firearm also has the right to possess that firearm concealed in their vehicle without that permit and that firearm can be accessible by that occupant of the vehicle,” Reddin said.

Chandler said many people aren’t applying for permits because they can legally conceal weapons in their vehicles.

“A lot of people don’t care about carrying a gun on themselves,” he said. “But as far as protection, they can carry a gun in their vehicle.”

Matt Kuhl, owner of Mid-Missouri CCW in Fulton, said the requirements for getting a permit – applying, paying a $100 processing fee and completing a safety course that typically costs about $100 – don’t necessarily discourage people. Rather, legal battles surrounding the law might prevent Missourians from applying.

“There are a lot of people concerned about the law still being challenged with the Hancock issues,” Kuhl said. “There are a lot of people who are concerned that if they put the expense out now, then six months later something could happen;their permit could be repealed or something like that.”

Although the Missouri law requires people to get permits in the counties where they live, other states such as Florida issue conceal-and-carry permits to out-of-state residents.

“I’ve had a handful of students ask about getting them from other states,” Kuhl said. “Most of those people lived in St. Louis County.”

Steve McGhee, owner of McGhee Training Services, has had a Florida conceal-and-carry permit for a few years because he visits family in Florida. When the Missouri law took effect, his Florida permit became valid in Missouri.

“I always thought it somewhat ironic that the state of Florida would recognize me as a responsible enough individual to be trusted with a means of self-defense, but my home state had no such mechanism,” McGhee said.

McGhee, a Hallsville resident who trains people to become conceal-and-carry instructors, applied for a permit the first day Hallsville police accepted applications. Although he didn’t need a Missouri permit, he decided to go through the application process so he could understand it as an instructor.

Demand for permits continues to decline across the state. By Aug. 31, the highway patrol had received about 10,000 requests for background checks, or an average of about 1,700 per month. That number dropped to between 1,000 and 1,500 per month and has now fallen below 1,000. Kuhl said Mid-Missouri CCW offers training once a month, and class sizes range from five to 20 people. Some weeks, Kuhl receives no calls.

“I don’t think there’s as much demand as we originally expected,” Kuhl said.

McGhee, who teaches a few courses a month, said he doesn’t expect demand to rise unless the permits become available to residents of Jackson County, St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.

McGhee said at least half the people he would expect to apply never will.

“Even when Kansas City and St. Louis do gain the ability to get a Missouri conceal-and-carry endorsement, many residents of those areas won’t because, in the meantime, while the sheriffs were dragging their heels, the people who felt they had a need to carry in self-defense already got a permit from another state, and it’s perfectly valid under our statute,” McGhee said.


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