Saturday, June 19, 2004

Handgun permits behind estimates

Sponsor wants to change law

By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau
and Meagan Pollnow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - The result of Ohio's great gun debate isn't living up to the hype, which could lead to changes in the new concealed-carry law.

After a decade of legislative battles that included Statehouse demonstrations, packed hearing rooms, extensive media coverage and countless hours of closed-door compromising, some expected droves of citizens to apply for new concealed-carry permits when the law went into effect April 8.

"(County sheriffs) are as surprised as I am at the low number of people coming in for a license," said Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association. "Maybe there weren't as many people who wanted to carry a concealed weapon as we anticipated."

In the 10 weeks since the law went into effect, county sheriffs have issued about 18,000 permits, Cornwell said. He now estimates about 50,000 people will get permits in the first year.

That's half the total Cornwell, state Attorney General Jim Petro and others estimated just prior to the law's enactment.

Sheriffs in Greater Cincinnati have experienced much the same:

• Clermont County has issued 1,242 permits since April. They have declined 100 applications for various reasons, said Sheriff A.J. "Tim" Rodenberg.

• Warren County has issued 289 permits.

• In Hamilton County, 661 permits have been granted.

The number of permits issued in Butler County was not available Friday.

Rodenberg said about 60 percent of people seeking permits in his county live in an adjoining county, primarily Warren and Hamilton counties.

(The law specifies the sheriff of the county of residence or adjacent. Rodenberg has had to pay his staff overtime to process applications.

"It's an all-day-long operation," he said. "Sometimes there aren't any (people) here and then all of a sudden, four or five show up in an hour."

Although the rush is beginning to slow, he said: "It seems to have stabilized a bit, but we're still seeing a steady amount of people coming in."

But in Warren and Hamilton counties, where officials require applicants to make an appointment and restrict the number of days people can apply for permits, the process have been relatively smooth.

Rep. Jim Aslanides, R-Coshocton, who sponsored the concealed-carry law, had said he would measure the law's success by how many people get a permit; the more people licensed to carry a concealed handgun, the more criminals would be wary of whom they strike.

He had wanted to see 5 percent of Ohioans - roughly 550,000 - licensed to carry within the first three years.

Aslanides called the early permit figures "alarming," and blamed the bill's numerous restrictions and clause allowing newspapers to publish names of permit holders as reasons for why so few are getting permits. People don't want their names in the paper, so they won't get a permit, he said.

"Prior to passage of the bill, I said this would happen," he said.

Aslanides said he is compiling data that he plans to turn into a bill next year seeking a variety of changes to the concealed-carry law. Some of those could include: Changes to restrictions for carrying guns in public transportation and more definitive language to make sure cities do not pass ordinances that contradict state law.

But Dan Pope of Delhi Township showed up for his appointment seeking a permit in Hamilton County Friday.

He said he wants to carry a concealed gun because he and his wife own a hair salon. "I need to protect my business, and this is one way to do that," Pope said.

Pope said he likes how much effort it takes to get a concealed weapons permit. "I think it should be done like this," he said. "You can't just give anyone anything."

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