Applications for a license to carry a firearm are on the rise.
Pennsylvania State Police released these numbers. In 2019, Pennsylvania State Police performed 272,901 background checks. The number jumped to 420,581 in 2020 — the highest total yet.
Like state police, County Sheriff’s Departments are trying to process applications as fast, safe and secure as possible.
Moreover, firearm ownership is on the rise across the country.
In Pennsylvania, sheriffs oversee concealed carry requests. Many offices closed during the pandemic and found other ways to get applications vetted. Specifically, Dauphin County did a mail-in process.
“We were pounded with applications every day. So, you could apply by mail, the bottom line was you had to come in here to get your picture taken, and you had to sign the form electronically. So, we ended up making appointments after that,” Dauphin County Sheriff Nicholas Chimienti Jr. said.
In 2019, the Dauphin Co. sheriff’s office issued 5,276 permits. As of the end of 2020, the number was up to 6,500 permits and counting. Currently, the department is open to the public with COVID-19 precautions in place.
In Cumberland County, the sheriff’s department went about issuing permits the same way.
Early in the pandemic, COVID-19 closed the sheriff’s department for months. It has since reopened, but by appointment only.
From March 1 through mid-November 2019 the department received 3,562 applications. During the same time period in 2020, it rose to 5,375.
“We currently have a second location that also offers some operations. We have a deputy assigned there to monitor how many people are waiting and coming in to apply for a license,” Jody Smith, Chief Deputy Sheriff for Cumberland County, said.
Lancaster County’s Sheriff’s Department is not accepting in-person applications. Instead, interested individuals must first apply by mail. The department received 9,976 in 2019 to about 11,525 by the end of Nov. 2020.
After checking sheriff’s departments with Adams, Franklin, Juniata, Lebanon, Perry, Mifflin and York Counties, all say they witnessed a rise in new requests and renewals.
“Covid has a little bit to do with it also. People are cooped up inside, they can’t get out, they want to make sure that they apply, but I want to say that the main reason is people want to protect themselves,” Chimienti Jr. said.
“I think it’s everything. It’s just a little bit of the election, a little bit of COVID-19, a little bit of the protesting, riots, demonstrations,” Smith said.
“Most of the people who are doing training, who are new shooters or buying guns for the first time, or getting concealed carry permits, are doing it for protection,” said Alan Bernardi, vice president and lead firearms instructor for Harrisburg’s Hunters and Anglers Association. “It’s not just about squeezing triggers especially if you’re going to carry concealed, it’s about knowing what you can do and can’t do legally with a firearm, both in your home and out in public.”
Bernardi says if people do conceal carry, to be responsible above all else.
“I’ll get calls from police officers here in the county, and advise me of a situation where someone was arrested, or someone threatened someone with a gun, or they’re at a bar, they’re drunk, they pull their gun out, and they decide they’re going to put it up on the bar, they’re showboating with it, that’ll get your gun permit taken real quick,” Chimienti Jr. said.
Chimienti Jr. added his department revoked 156 permits in 2020 and ten so far this year.
To see which states you can legally conceal carry with your Pennsylvania license, visit the state’s concealed carry reciprocity page.