More Gig Harbor residents will be licensed to carry in 2016.
Licensed to carry a concealed handgun, that is.
The Gig Harbor Police Department has seen an increase in applications over the last four months for concealed pistol licenses, according to Police Chief Kelly Busey.
The trend is not surprising to Bob McDaniel, owner of Gig Harbor Guns, who has noticed an increase in business and purchases of handguns for personal protection.
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“I’ve noticed quite a bit of increase in business with the events that have happened in the past couple of months,” McDaniel said, referring to the Dec. 2 terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California. “The events of the past month or two are spurring gun sales again.”
A majority of the new customers McDaniel, 66, is seeing are couples looking to purchase a handgun for the wife to carry and use, if needed.
There’s definitely a trend of people considering that police just can’t get (to an incident) in time...I think people are getting worried at this point what can happen.
Rick Gaida, president of Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club
Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club officials have also noticed a heightened interest in their basic handgun safety classes.
“We’re really getting asked to do more,” said Terry Holm, the club’s vice president. “I wouldn’t say (the interest is) out of fear and panic, but from heightened awareness and (people) wanting to do stuff for themselves.”
Club president Rick Gaida agrees: “There’s definitely a trend of people considering that police just can’t get (to an incident) in time ... I think people are getting worried at this point what can happen.”
The club has expanded its handgun classes to now offer 20 classes a year, a drastic change from the previous offering of four classes a year. Holm and Gaida see a wide range of ages attending their handgun classes — they have had students ranging from age 8 to 89 — with about two-thirds of the class made up of women.
“Women seem to take to handgunning more than men,” Gaida said with a laugh, adding that the women in the class will often outshoot the men.
Handgun classes taught by the club are certified by the National Rifle Association and are focused on safety and how to handle and shoot a handgun.
“Our whole purpose here is to have people enjoy shooting and do it safely,” Gaida said.
Most CPL carriers Holm encounters are people interested in being more proactive in their safety, and usually range from older men looking for a safety resource to women looking for additional security.
He doesn’t see CPL carriers behaving irresponsibly, but instead has noticed they have an increased awareness of the responsibility of holding a license.
I’m not interested in being a vigilante, but I also don’t want to be a victim...I wanna be in a position where, if I have to, then I have a way to protect my family.
Terry Holm, vice president of Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club
As a CPL holder himself, these interests mirror his own.
“I’m not interested in being a vigilante, but I also don’t want to be a victim,” Holm said. “I want to be in a position where, if I have to, then I have a way to protect my family.”
The increased awareness of personal safety is a common prompt for an increase in CPL applications seen by the Gig Harbor Police Department, Busey said.
26 Number of CPL applications received in December by the Gig Harbor Police Department
“Whenever we have an incident like (San Bernardino) we get a bit of a spike (in applications),” he said.
The department received 26 CPL applications in December, compared to 14 applications in November, five applications in October and nine in September.
“For us, that’s a reasonable spike because we only do city limits,” Busey said, comparing the 2015 numbers of the department to the number of applications received by South Sound 911, which rate in the thousands.
Busey’s not concerned about the increase in Gig Harbor residents with a license, but does recommend those taking a gun safety and instructional class.
It’s someone’s personal decision if they want to own a gun and have one in the house...I certainly understand their reasoning.
Kelly Busey, police chief
“There are two standout issues for us: We’d like (CPL carriers) to understand gun safety and proper storage,” Busey said. “We want responsible gun ownership.”
The Sportsman’s Club echoes Busey’s statement with its dedication to and focus on gun safety, for both members of the club and for CPL carriers outside the club.
“This state allows us some rights, like concealed carry ... (that) I think (are) safer for the individual and more socially comfortable,” Holm said. “(A CPL) is a significant acceptance of responsibility.”
The concern for safety is something that McDaniel, the shop owner, keeps in mind when selling to a new CPL carrier.
“Get training,” he advises. “Especially the first-time gun owners and buyers. Practice with your firearm a lot so you don’t have to think about it if you need it.”
Ultimately, Busey says the decision to carry a handgun lies with the individual citizen.
“It’s someone’s personal decision if they want to own a gun and have one in the house,” he said. “I certainly understand their reasoning.”