Gun sales, permits taking off

Joe Oruska looks over a 9mm handgun at Montrose Sporting Goods as Ryan Coy discusses the small Luger’s features. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY STACI WILSON

One hundred seventy-two gun permit applications have been filed in Susquehanna County since Jan. 1.

That was the number at noon, Thursday, Jan. 17. And three people were, at that exact time, in the sheriff’s office, filling out their applications.

Sheriff Lance Benedict said his office has been overwhelmed with people seeking conceal-carry permits in the past few weeks.

Many of the first-time gun permit applicants are women, Benedict said.

Ryan Coy, of Montrose Sporting Goods, said that the number of women looking to purchase guns has increased.

“But this area has always had a lot of women who are avid shooters and hunters,” Coy added.

While already on a steady increase, the number of permit applicants rose sharply amid the gun-control talk that has followed the mass shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn., and the government’s reaction to the tragedy.

Benedict, who is in his 12th year as the county sheriff, said the number of gun permits sought in Susquehanna County ranged from 700 to 800 annually until 2010.

In 2012, 1,598 gun permits were issued in Susquehanna County, averaging about 133 each month; and the first three weeks of 2013 is outpacing the 2012 numbers.

But it’s not just the number of permits that are seeing an increase; phone inquiries and foot traffic are also increasing daily at Montrose Sporting Goods.

Coy said, “There’s been a definitive spike in sales.”

So much of a spike, he added, that it’s becoming virtually impossible to find some ammunition, magazines and certain styles of guns. “What the government call ‘assault,’” he explains are becoming more and more difficult to keep in stock.

But it’s not just Susquehanna County that’s seeing an increase in the number of permit applications and gun and ammunition sales.

Joe Oruska stopped into the sporting goods store Monday afternoon looking for ammunition for a handgun he had recently purchased.

Instead of walking out of the store with ammunition, he ended up purchasing a different style handgun; filling out the paperwork and waiting for the background check to be complete.

Benedict says the state’s entire system has been overwhelmed with sometimes long wait times on the instant checks.

The state police PICS system was down for two days, he said. And, when his office finally did get through to the instant check system, 41 minutes was spent on-hold waiting for the approval of one application.

Following President Barack Obama’s announcement of 23 executive signing statements on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Robert Wollyung, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association, announced the position of the state has not changed in regard to gun control.  The Sheriffs are Constitutional Officers sworn to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth, Wollyung made clear.

In a statement released to media that Wednesday afternoon, Wollyung said: “No directive has been given, nor is any directive expected to require the removal or surrender of any firearms in this state.  Pennsylvania does have, however, laws that require individuals who are subject to Protection from Abuse orders to temporarily surrender their weapons to the Sheriff until the case is disposed of in Court.”

The Sheriffs of most of the 67 counties are reporting significant increases in License to Carry applications and are still able to complete the process of issuance or denial of the licenses within the prescribed time. Because of the state-wide increases, the instant background check system operated by the Pennsylvania State Police has also shown the strain in timely responses to the Sheriffs.