Concealed carry permits on the rise in Ohio

Concealed carry permits increased nearly 65 percent in Ohio last year, according to state data released earlier this month.

The attorney general’s Concealed Handgun Law Annual Report shows the state issued 158,982 regular licenses in 2016: 117,953 new licenses and 40,986 renewals.

It’s the busiest year for concealed carry since the law passed in 2004 — smashing the 2013 record of 96,972 new licenses by more than 20 percent.

The numbers reflect the growing class sizes for firearm safety courses, required by law for concealed handgun licensees, said Don Mason, a course instructor and the owner of Excel Defense in northwestern Ohio.

“90 percent of my calls are for concealed carry,” he told the Fremont News-Messenger last week.

Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System show more than 12,000 Ohio residents applied for concealed carry permits last month, down 21 percent from last year, but still 8 percent above January.

Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine told the Columbus Dispatch earlier this month the increasing interest proves it’s more than just “gun people” applying for licenses.

“It’s about safety, not just guns,” he said. “Having a smoke detector isn’t about smoke detectors; it’s about safety. Wearing a seat belt is about safety. People are starting to see that, but with guns.”

Ohio passed a law in 2014 ensuring residents with concealed carry licenses issued on or after March 23, 2015 wouldn’t have to submit to an additional NICS check when buying firearms.