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Authorities: More seeking to arm themselves
Surge in background checks, gun permits
Bullseye Marksman store manager Jason Matthews mounts a scope on a hunting rifle for a customer on Friday. - photo by Jim Dean

The possibility of gun reform in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy appears to have stirred Forsyth County residents’ interest in firearms.

In the week since 20 young children and six adults were killed at an elementary school Dec. 14, President Obama has pushed for a gun violence task force to recommend reforms that could help prevent or reduce the number of mass shootings.

During that same period, however, applications for concealed weapons permits have nearly quadrupled in Forsyth County. Gun sales have seen an even larger increase.

Doug Clayton, owner of Bulls Eye Marksman Gun Club & Indoor Range, said he sold about five times more guns than normal last week.

“There’s just a general concern about the steps that our government is taking in their reaction to what happened in Connecticut,” Clayton said. “I think it’s a consumer knee-jerk reaction to what they think might come out of those decisions.

“Those individuals who were thinking about getting a firearm, it’s made them believe that now’s the time to do it. So it probably sped up some people’s decision on making a purchase.”

The store on Parkway North Drive typically averages four to eight gun sales daily. Last week, it sold between 16 and 25 guns per day.

“We’ve had a fairly large increase in customer traffic, phone calls and in-store purchases,” Clayton said. “It’s getting to the point where I don’t have anything left to sell.”

Forsyth County Probate Court and Sheriff’s Office have also seen a surge in residents applying for permits to carry concealed weapons.

Spokeswoman Karleen Chalker said the sheriff’s office saw at least 50 people a day last week come in to be fingerprinted and have background checks for permit applications. The normal daily average is about 15.

“People are basically saying the reason they’re coming in is because of the school shooting in Connecticut. It’s a safety issue,” Chalker said. “Another reason is because of all the talk of gun control since last Friday’s incident.

“Individuals are concerned that President Obama is going to start instituting stronger gun control and they may not even be able to get a permit.”

Chalker said residents who don’t even own a gun are applying for a permit just in case.

Permit applications are handled through Probate Court. After going through two different background checks from the sheriff’s office and having fingerprints entered into the system, a permit can be obtained for $67.25.

Those permits must be renewed every five years, which requires the same process as first-time applications.

Normally, the court receives about 70 applications a week but that number swelled to 239 this past week, according to court records.

From law enforcement’s perspective, Chalker said sheriff’s deputies already knew the county was heavily armed.

“This is one of the most conservative counties in the nation and that pretty much goes hand in hand with people owning weapons,” she said.

“The last time we saw this increase in people wanting weapons was just [after] President Obama was elected the first time.”

Clayton said there has also been an increase in people attending gun classes, including more women.

“So for me, I think that’s a positive thing because more people are willing to take the time to learn before they start actually handling a firearm,” he said.