Record-shattering number of concealed weapons permits
There's been a record-breaking run on concealed weapons permits in the state in what gun store owners and activists say is fueled by political and economic uncertainty.
Utah issued 15,389 concealed weapons permits in the first three months of the year, shattering the previous record of 11,996, which was set in the second quarter of 2008.
Traditionally, slightly more permits have gone out of state than to Utah residents. But in the most recent quarter, permits going to Utahns edged out those going to non-residents, said Lt. Doug Anderson, Bureau of Criminal Identification manager.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, points to several reasons for the sharp increase, including fear that the plummeting economy could lead to an increase in home invasions and carjackings.
"People are unsure about what may happen to society should everything come crashing down," Aposhian said. "They may have to protect their family, home and food supply."
It's that fear, justified or not, that also may be causing runs on ammunition and guns.
The last quarter of 2008 showed a huge jump in gun sales, and while that dropped in the last three months, the overall upward trend appears to be continuing.
"People are choosing to go about it legally and getting the training to lawfully carry firearms for self defense," Aposhian said.
Gun dealers are scrambling to keep up with purchases.
"Supply is not necessarily meeting demand right now," said Oly Mann, general manager of Fuzzy Bunny Movie Guns. "There's still a big surge. Supply is down and it's getting worse."
Demand for all types of guns has increased, he said, and the concealed carry classes the store offers are consistently full. He says many people buying firearms are first-time gun owners.
"The general public is more concerned about safety issues nowadays," he said. "I even know people that swore up and down they would never buy or own one, and now they're buying guns."
Many friends and neighbors of Charles Hardy, policy director for Gun Owners of Utah, are doing the same.
The trend is unusual in that historically during economic downturns, people will pawn or sell some of their guns for some quick cash, Hardy said, but this trend is headed in the opposite direction.
He says many of the fears are fueled by a distrust of federal politicians. Despite recent public announcements from President Barack Obama and congressional leaders they won't pursue an assault weapons ban, people are distrustful of those promises, says Hardy.
He points to bills such as the federal HR45, sponsored by Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., which would require all gun owners to have a license to own a gun. He says that while a bill similar to it has been proposed annually for the last 10 or 15 years, people worry about having a Democratic president and Democratically controlled houses.
"The bill continues to drive the concern that Washington, D.C., is full of people who don't like guns and don't like people having guns," Hardy said. "The perception is there."