State Rep. Ron Maag, R-Salem Twp., (front) this week introduced two bills, both aimed at easing restrictions on licensed gun owners.

78,000 concealed gun licenses issued in Ohio in 2012, a record

Attorney General Mike DeWine reported Wednesday that sheriffs across the state issued 64,650 new permits and renewed 12,160 — the biggest numbers since Ohio started issuing concealed weapons licenses in April 2004.

The re-election of Democratic President Barack Obama and a focus on gun control as a remedy to shootings has fueled the record demand, according to both sides of the issue.

Jim Irvine of the Buckeye Firearms Association said that on gun shop doors across the country there are signs that say “Salesman of the Year: President Obama.”

“The firearms industry — this is one industry that Obama has helped. They’re selling record numbers of guns and seeing record profits,” Irvine said.

The attorney general collects the data from the 88 county sheriffs who issue the permits. Quarterly numbers show gun enthusiasts were keen to get their CCW permit following Obama taking office in 2009 and again after his re-election last year. Two of the three highest quarterly numbers came in first quarter 2009 when 16,323 permits were issued and the last quarter of 2012 when 15,679 permits were issued.

Roughly 328,000 Ohioans are now licensed to carry concealed weapons.

“More and more people are seeing this as a responsible thing to do. Kind of like CPR. Calling 9-1-1 and waiting around isn’t enough any more,” Irvine said.

Toby Hoover of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence said despite the record numbers, only 3-to-4 percent of Ohio’s adult population has a CCW.

“Most people don’t want the person in the general public standing next to them to carry a gun. They don’t say anything about it because they don’t see them,” she said.

Neither side thinks the spike in CCW permits yet reflects gun owners’ reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14. Irvine predicts that record numbers are now seeking CCW permits in the wake of that shooting and the subsequent debate over gun control.

Hoover isn’t so sure. She said more and more people are joining the national conversation over what should be done.

“They’re saying something needs to be done. Our gun culture has gone too far,” she said.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Feb 13 showed nationwide that 92 percent of registered voters favor universal background checks for gun buyers, 56 percent support a ban on the sale of assault weapons, and 56 percent support a ban on the sale of high capacity magazines with 10 or more rounds. The poll, conducted Jan. 30 to Feb. 4, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percent.

In Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee heard emotional testimony from Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse was murdered in the Newtown massacre by gunman Adam Lanza. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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