As Loudoun County grows, so do concealed carry permits
Clerk of the Circuit Court Gary Clemens (R) says applications have increased so much that his staff is overwhelmed by the requests. As a result of the surge in applications, Clemens asked the Board of Supervisors to approve a $75,019 request in its 2018 budget to hire a new civil case management clerk to help with concealed carry applications and other tasks. Supervisors eventually signed off on Clemens' request.
“It goes up every year and in this fiscal year we are definitely projecting that we will have received the most applications than we did back in 2000 when I first started,” Clemens told the Times-Mirror.
Clemens believes the uptick in applications is being fueled by the county’s continued growth. He also said the clerk’s office has seen a “tremendous surge” in the volume of concealed gun permit applications after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
“That’s when it really began, and it has never slowed down since,” Clemens said.
For $40 a Loudoun County resident can fill out an application for a permit to carry a concealed handgun and have it filed at the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office in downtown Leesburg. An applicant must submit a “proof of competency” document showing that they have completed a gun-safety training course. A criminal background check is then conducted by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office -- a process that takes less than a week --and if the application is advanced, it is reviewed by Circuit Court judges, who are required to take action on the request within 45 days.
At $40 an application, Clemens' office has collected nearly $840,000 in fees for applications since 2008.
Those on both sides of the gun ownership debate weighed in on the increase in concealed carry permits. Some say the permitting process is too easy and needs to be reformed.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the gun rights advocacy group Virginia Citizens Defense League, says the rise is not just occurring in Loudoun County, but around the country. He described it as a “complicated picture” consisting of people becoming more self aware of crime and terrorism and the realization that they have a right to protect themselves.
“It’s looking at crime, it’s looking at terrorism, it’s threats against the Second Amendment … it’s a whole variety of things,” Van Cleave said. “But it’s not just a phenomenon in Loudoun County by any sense of the word.”
Van Cleave says he has seen the number of permits jump by several million around country in recent years.
As of March 14, the Virginia State Police say there are currently 429,837 active Virginia residents who hold concealed handgun permits.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court Office’s request comes after data was released by gun control advocacy and research organization Violence Policy Center on the number of fatal shootings carried out by individuals with concealed handgun permits. The report found that citizens with permits to carry concealed handguns have been responsible for at least 928 deaths not involving self defense since 2007.
VPC says that since there is no comprehensive record-keeping of fatal incidents involving concealed carry permit holders, its latest report likely represents just “a small fraction of the actual total.”
“We think it is far too easy for virtually anyone to get a concealed carry permit today, and when you look at the little that we know about how these guns are being used in public, it is a scandal,” VPC Executive Director and Founder Josh Sugarmann told the Times-Mirror.
In the state of Virginia, State Police Spokesperson Corinne Geller said there is no existing state law that requires law enforcement to collect data on shootings where a concealed handgun was involved.
“If a person is in violation, [and] they have a concealed weapon, and they do not have a valid permit, then obviously that individual would be cited…as part of the case investigation they may consider to look into the matter,” Geller said. “But as far as jotting a box on some form somewhere, it’s not collected in that manner.”
In Loudoun County too, there is no local ordinance that would require the sheriff’s office keep record of shootings involving citizens with permits to carry concealed handguns.
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Kraig Troxell said in a email the only shooting he could recall involving a concealed carry permit took place last year in Algonkian Regional Park when a man fatally shot an 11-month old 50-pound lab mix in self defense.
Clemens also said the clerk’s office does not keep track of the total number of concealed carry applications that are denied or when permits are revoked. However, he thinks those figures are “a very small percentage,” and noted that denial or revocation of the permits are based upon statutory requirements.
Most of the data VPC collects comes from news reports or from the few states that record data on concealed carry shootings.
Since 2007, VPC found that at least 33 shootings have been carried out across Virginia by individuals with permits to carry concealed handguns. All of the shootings in Virginia the organization found, were obtained through news reports, and the majority of the incidents were homicides.
“When these laws were passed...the promise was made that we would not find concealed handgun permit holders over parking spaces or road rage incidents, or in bar fights, and what we find day in and day out is that concealed handgun permit holders are killing each other over parking incidents, road rage incidents, the very things that the proponents promised would never happen,” Sugarmann said.
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