The Friday before Christmas at the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, exactly one week after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, 65 people showed up to apply for a license to carry a concealed weapon.
The sheriff’s office said on a normal day, five apply.
In Lycoming County, the Sheriff’s Office in Williamsport stayed open late twice last week, to handle a rush of permit seekers.
“I want to be protected,” said Kyle Rakiecki of Jersey Shore as he waited in line to apply for his license to carry.
Why apply now?
“The stress of what`s been going on lately,” said Rakiecki, referring to the shooting in Connecticut.
Rakciecki said he is also concerned about his own safety.
He is a geologist, and said his work takes him to remote areas, far away from police protection.
We`ve seen reports about gun sales rising after the re-election of President Obama, and sales spiked in the week after the Connecticut shootings.
Many gun buyers said they’re protecting their homes from intruders.
Those applying for license to carry permits said they need to protect themselves, wherever they go. These permits allow them to hide a handgun beneath their car seats, perhaps in the glove compartments. They can even tuck it inside their jackets and go just about everywhere.
“If you pass our screening, pass our background check, you`re allowed to carry a gun that you lawfully own, concealed,” said Lycoming County Sheriff Mark Lusk noting the number of people wanting the right to carry a concealed weapon is at an all time high.
Newswatch 16 checked figures in six counties, comparing permit applications this month, to December 2011.
People seeking license to carry permits in Columbia County more than doubled, up 112%
Lackawanna County saw a 65% rise. Applications are up 55% in Luzerne County, 49%-percent in Schuylkill and Lycoming Counties, and 39% percent in Monroe County.
In those six counties, from 1329 last December to 2031 this December, an overall increase of 53%.
Sheriff Lusk said criminal background checks effectively keep many dangerous people from getting a license to carry.
He added almost everyone who earns a license to carry is law-abiding: important because he estimates at least one in 10 adults in Lycoming County can pack legally.
However, he has concerns.
Some applicants may have mental illnesses that don`t show up on background checks.
Others get their license but don’t train properly.
“I would be concerned with anybody who picks up a gun for the first time, and only fire it, if it`s in a life or death situation,” said the Lycoming County Sheriff.
Kyle Rakiecki doesn’t even own a gun, but plans to buy one and get the license to carry a concealed weapon.
“You never know,” said Rakiecki. “You might be at a gas station pumping your gas. Somebody might come up to you and want to take your wallet, or take something off of your vehicle.”
A County sheriff can use his own judgement to deny a license to carry permit or to pull a permit from someone. Even if that person has passed a criminal background check.
For example, Sheriff Lusk of Lycoming County recently revoked the permit of a man who reportedly got drunk at a bar and left a loaded weapon on the sink in the men`s room.
When Sheriffs do deny or take away a person’s license to carry that person has the right to appeal to a judge.