We already know that 2020 was the best year on record for firearm sales, but it may also very have been a record-setter in terms of the number of concealed carry licenses that were issued around the country. In Ohio, new data released by Attorney General Dave Yost’s office indicates that nearly 100,000 Ohioans received their carry license, which is the most since 2016 and a 78-percent increase over 2019.
Last year, Ohio sheriffs issued 96,892 new conceal-carry licenses – the most since 2016 and the third-most in the last decade, according to the report from Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.
Meanwhile, 72,340 Ohio gun owners renewed their licenses in 2020, the report stated. While that marked the second straight year renewed licenses have decreased in Ohio, 2018 and 2019 were the top two years for renewed concealed-firearms licenses since such permits were first issued in 2004.
Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said the reason so many Ohioans sought conceal-carry permits last year was because a number of things happened in 2020 that made people uneasy.
The coronavirus crisis, which started last spring, “freaked out a lot of people” and made them think more about their security, Rieck said. On top of that, he said, many gun owners got “riled up” by last year’s civil-rights protests following the death of Black Minnesotan George Floyd.
In addition to the coronavirus shutdowns and the civil unrest (I’m not sure why the Cleveland Plain-Dealer insists on referring simply to “civil-rights protests” when their own reporting on the violence and unrest last June declared the incident a “riot”), Rieck also pointed to the presidential election, which featured the most anti-gun presidential ticket in U.S. history.
As for the drop-off in the number of concealed carry license renewals, Reick has an explanation.
Rieck said he wasn’t surprised that the number of renewed licenses fell last year, as the pandemic led many Ohio sheriffs to cancel license appointments and limit hours of operation.
“In some extreme cases, people were saying they couldn’t get in (to renew their license) for nine months, 10 months, (or) a year,” Rieck said.
The coronavirus relief bill passed by state lawmakers last spring automatically extended concealed-handgun licenses until December of 2020. The Ohio General Assembly also passed a different law temporarily allowing residents to apply for a conceal-carry license in any county in the state, rather than only their home county or an adjacent county as state law usually allows.
If folks couldn’t get in to renew their licenses, it stands to reason that many others weren’t able to apply for their licenses either. In other words, the nearly 100,000 concealed carry licenses that were issued in Ohio last year may not tell the entire story.
In fact, we know that this was an issue in the Buckeye State last year because some local news outlets actually covered the high demand and long delays. This was from Cleveland’s WOIO-TV last July.
Local sheriff departments are reporting that revenue loss is making it difficult to schedule enough deputies to handle the large amount of re-registrations and applications.
“Staffing is being cut because the counties don’t have sufficient revenue to pay for services coming in,” said Lake County Sheriff Frank Leonbruno.
Lake County currently is scheduling appointments out 90 days for concealed carry permits and for those who need to re-register.
“We had 600 some open appointments and they were filled within 24 hours,” Leonbruno said.
Officials at the Geauga County Sheriff’s Department said they are booked through January of 2021.
Last summer some sheriff’s departments already had a backlog stretching into 2021, and I’m sure the delays only increased over the course of the year. As late as December some sheriff’s offices were still shutting down temporarily because of COVID, adding further delays to the already growing backlog.
We may not have any way of knowing exactly how many Ohioans were unable to apply for or receive their concealed carry licenses because of the closures and high demand, but it’s obvious that if these barriers weren’t in place, the number of concealed carry licenses would be much higher than the 98-thousand or so that were issued in Ohio in 2020.
The all-time high in the state in terms of licenses issued was back in 2016, when 117,953 Ohioans gained the ability to carry a concealed firearm. That’s about 19-thousand more licenses than were issued in 2020, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if at least that many people were told to check back in 2021, even if they tried to apply in August or September.
I think it’s a certainty that last year was the biggest year for demand in terms of concealed carry licenses, but it was also the first year where we’ve had widespread and long-term disruptions of the supply chain for licenses. 2020 may very well still end up with a record for most concealed carry licenses issued, but even if that turns out not to be the case, the fault lies with those governments unable or unwilling to process applications in a timely fashion and not apathy or a lack of interest on the part of American gun owners.