The sheriff’s offices in Washington and Greene counties have noticed a doubling in the number of firearms licenses issued over the past two years. Many potential gun purchasers cite personal safety as the main reason why they carry concealed weapons.
“It’s not for me to question these people,” said Greene County Sheriff Brian Tennant, “but I can say that most, if not all, applications list protection as the reason for wanting a gun permit.”
In 2011, 3,676 residents of Washington County had such licenses. By the end of 2013, the number had jumped to 7,010. In Greene County, 504 people had licenses in 2011, and in 2013, 1,214 had them.
In Pennsylvania, licenses are issued to applicants aged 21 and over. Prospective licensees must appear at the sheriff’s office in person, pay cash, and provide two character references. The license is only issued if an applicant passes PICS (Pennsylvania Instant Check), a background check system that screens for certain criminal convictions and mental health commitments.
CeaseFirePA, along with other organizations fighting gun violence, has no problem with law-abiding gun owners who go through the necessary processes. “I do hope they offer people who have guns training so that they store guns safely and put safety above all else,” said Shira Goodman, CeaseFirePA’s executive director.
“Guns [used] without training make our communities more dangerous. Expanding background checks doesn’t hurt any law-abiding gun owner. People who shouldn’t have guns shouldn’t buy them. I think there are unfounded fears,” she added.
PICS recently survived a challenge from House Bill 921, which, if passed, would force Pennsylvania to rely solely on the national background check system instead of using both checks. The bill was tabled after protests from the Pennsylvania State Police and anti-gun violence groups.