More Stark Countians were issued a concealed-carry license in 2012 than in any year since Ohio’s carrying a concealed weapon program began in 2004.
Hopeful concealed-carry license holders are making a lot of noise these days at places like Albert Wohlwend’s farm in Navarre and the indoor shooting range at Buckeye Protective Services in Canton.
That’s because more Stark Countians were issued a license in 2012 than in any year since Ohio’s carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) program began in 2004. There were 1,341 CCW licenses issued in 2012, a 40 percent increase from the previous year. Another 241 people renewed their permits, something that is required every five years.
Stark follows a statewide trend that saw county sheriffs issuing 64,650 new licenses and renewing another 12,160, also records.
The permit allows civilians to legally carry firearms at a range of public places — anywhere from their own vehicles to bars, restaurants and stadiums that don’t prohibit them.
Pat Rhodes, 39, a long-time gun owner, said he got his permit last month, after long considering the idea but always putting it off.
Rhodes’ motivation? His wife, Jodee, a bartender at a Perry Township tavern, wanted her permit after a rash of robberies near work.
“You need it today,” said Rhodes, a captain for the Massillon Fire Department. “There are so many idiots out there, so many criminals. You don’t ever know when you’ll need it. ... My wife wanted to do it because she works in a bar and it closes at 2 a.m. I said, ‘OK, let’s go take (the course).’ ”
Rhodes now carries a Glock 22, a .40-caliber pistol., in his truck. Rhodes was a specialist in the U.S. Army from 1993 to 1996, serving a stint in Somalia. He was too far removed from his military service to still qualify for an exemption from the 12-hour class.
“Half the course is going over the NRA’s basic gun parts,” Rhodes said. “What helped me was the laws – what you are allowed to do, when you’re allowed to do it and where you’re allowed to carry it.”
Some say the increase in licenses is tied to the gun control debate.
President Barack Obama has called on universal background checks for gun sales, including private sales at gun shows, and a new ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The proposal comes following a string of mass shootings in the U.S., including the Dec. 14 deaths of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Ohio performed a record number of background checks for gun sales in 2012, according to the FBI.
Rick Kaleda, the Northeast Ohio chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said he’s unsure what specifically is motivating people to get their concealed-carry permit. There are no proposals to roll back CCW laws. But Kaleda speculates that the broader political debate over gun control has “gotten many people on their feet.”
Page 2 of 3 - “There are all sorts of factors,” he said. “People are talking about gun sales being piqued. The way the political climate is and knowing the Obama administration knows that it’s time to strike, it has everyone keeping a watchful eye.”
Wohlwend, who’s been running the CCW course in Navarre with son, Eric, since Ohio’s program began, said gun owners are scared about a new assault rifle ban. He’s now teaching three to four classes a month, in addition to private instruction, as opposed to the single class he held previously.
“They want to protect themselves. Period,” he said. “This list of things that (President) Obama wanted to accomplish by executive order has them scared.”
Rick Jacobsen, president of Buckeye Protective Services, 2215 Sixth St. SW, Canton, said he’s seen a similar influx.
“The recent school shooting was a big (factor),” he said. “That was a big situation because, you know, that could be my kid. We’re in a society now with a bad economy that people are doing some crazy things.”
Jimmy Guest, an instructor for Tactical Defense Training, which neighbors Buckeye Protective Services, said that interest has piqued in recent months.
“Ohio’s CCW is still relatively new,” he said. “But there’s more interest now than when it started. There’s a lot more people comfortable with the law.”
Jacobsen and Wohlwend said women part of the reason for the increase. Jacobsen has begun offering female-only courses and gun familiarity classes for spouses of CCW holders. Wohlwend said the number of female students has grown to 40 percent.
But Wohlwend said everyone comes for the same reason.
“It’s the entire gamut of the population,” Wohlwend said. “I’ve not had anyone attend the class that I don’t trust. It’s everyday people. I’ve had surgeons, physicians, ditch diggers and truck drivers. They come here with a common goal – to protect themselves and their families.”
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OHIO’S CONCEALED-CARRY REQUIREMENTS
• Must be a resident of Ohio for at least 45 days.
• Must be at least 21 years old.
• Must complete 12-hour training course by certified National Rifle Association or Ohio Peace Officer Training Association instructor. Course must include two hours of live-fire practice.
• Must undergo background check and application process with county sheriff.
• Can apply for license in home county or adjoining county.
• Anyone who is under indictment or who has been convicted of a felony, or who has been convicted of any offense of drug trafficking or assault, are barred from carrying a weapon.
Page 3 of 3 - • Also banned are people who are the subject of a civil or temporary protection order or who have been involuntarily hospitalized for a mental illness.
STARK COUNTY CONCEALED-CARRY LICENSES
2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
ISSUED 1,341 957 942 1,140 719 380 320 375 723
RENEWED 241 86 326 348 646 0 0 0 0
SUSPENDED 13 9 13 10 9 6 4 0 1
REVOKED 4 2 3 2 2 4 0 0 1
DENIED 35 28 19 18 8 12 5 6 8