Vale — In just the first three months of this year, 244 people have applied for a concealed carry permit in Malheur County. That’s more than half the number of people who applied for a permit in all of 2012.

The influx of applications is creating a first-time problem for the Sheriff’s Office, which has had to create a waiting list for people to be interviewed and to drop off their application.

“We don’t take any applications without appointments,” said Kim Fulwyler, the management assistant at the sheriff’s office and the sole individual who processes applications for a concealed carry permit. “Until this year, a person could typically call the sheriff’s office and make an appointment, which only happens on Wednesdays and Thursdays, that week, if not the next.”

Now, however, the soonest that Fulwyler can see anyone concerning a concealed carry license is the beginning of June and she expects that time frame to keep pushing forward for the foreseeable future.

“Last year, I’d process maybe 10 to 15 applications a week,” Fulwyler said. “This year, I’m doing at least 25 to 30 a week.”

In 2012, there were 398 total applications processed. From Jan. 1 through March 31, there have already been 244 applications. That doesn’t include a two-month backlog that the sheriff’s office now has of people waiting to drop off their applications, and to be interviewed and processed.

Fulwyler said that this isn’t putting more of a strain on her job, of which she spends about 50 percent of her time on concealed weapon duties. But the increase certainly has created a much longer waiting time for individuals to acquire a concealed carry license.

Gender shift

There also appears to be a slight gender shift. Last year, 88 women applied for a concealed carry permit. In just the first three months of 2013, 61 women have applied.

Pat Pollard, a 71-year-old recent attendee of a concealed carry class said that she attended the course and plans on acquiring a license for protection.

“I lost my husband five years ago and I travel alone quite a bit to Seattle,” Pollard said. “I need to get more experience and just learn more about guns.”

Jim Warren, who works for the sheriff’s parole and probation office and spent seven years with the Ontario Police Department, recently held a class of seven students, consisting of five women and two men. Warren said that about 30 to 40 percent of his current classes are made up of women, which is above the 22 percent of applicants last year.

Demonstrate competence

While the sheriff’s office handles the applications, processes them, conducts background checks and prints the cards, it’s not the sheriff’s office’s responsibility to make sure individuals meet the qualifications to apply.

In Oregon, an individual must demonstrate competence with a handgun to acquire a concealed handgun license.

That means, with the exception of individuals who worked in law enforcement-type fields or served in the military and can provide a DD214 that specifies handgun training, most people must take a handgun safety course.

Aside from Warren, there is one other individual, Neil Goodfellow, whom the sheriff’s office recommends.

Pollard, who said that she had very little experience with handguns, attended Warren’s class, which began with Warren performing a weapons check on all pistols brought into the classroom to ensure they were unloaded.

“I treat everyone as though they’ve never handled a gun before,” Warren said. “Because sometimes, that is the case and it’s always better to be safe.”

There were approximately two hours spent in class going over various safety techniques, weapon fundamentals and several other aspects that Warren feels anyone who’s going to carry a handgun should know.

Warren said that he, too, has seen a significant increase in the number of classes and attendees this year. He’s always held classes on Saturdays and typically had to wait until he had enough people signed up before he scheduled one. Now, he said that he holds classes nearly every Saturday and even Sundays sometimes.

Reasons unclear

Both Warren and the sheriff’s office said that the reason for this large increase in individuals seeking to acquire a concealed carry permit is debatable. Whether it’s a result of President Barack Obama’s re-election and push to amend weapon laws, or if it’s due to the Dec. 14, shooting at Newtown, Conn., in which a shooter killed 27 people, 20 of them children, is unknown.

Warren said that the reasons he’s given by many of his class attendees vary, but about half simply want to learn about handguns.

What you can do

If interested in finding out more information about applying for an Oregon concealed handgun license in Malheur County, go to the sheriff’s website, www.malheursheriff.com, and look under the concealed handgun license. People can also call the office at (541) 473-5126. All applicants must make an appointment in order to apply.

To schedule for a handgun training class, contact Neil Goodfellow at (541) 212-2882 or Jim Warren at (541) 881-0059.

William Lopez is a news reporter at the Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4815 or by emailing willl@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com

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