COLORADO SPRINGS — Want a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Colorado Springs? Wait in line. A long line.
“We’re swamped,” says Laurie Thomas, coordinator for the Concealed Handgun Program at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Workers there are handling 70 appointments per day. She likened it to an assembly line.
Following two mass shootings in Colorado Springs in the past two months, new applications for handgun permits have been rolling in.
“The first shooting was Oct. 31, so people had to go through classes, so obviously we didn’t see an immediate rise,” Thomas, says. “With the second shooting, that’s when we really saw the second increase.”
Stats from the sheriff’s office show 102 new applications in the week following the first triple homicide in Colorado Springs, which took place the morning of Oct. 31. That’s the same amount of new applications as the week prior. New applications then dipped to 78 from Nov. 9 through Nov. 13 (the office was closed for Veterans Day). From Nov. 16 to Nov. 20, 111 new applications came in. The office was closed for two days for Thanksgiving between Nov. 23 and Nov. 27, which saw 89 new applicants.
Then a spike. From Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 the office saw 160 new permit applications. From Dec. 7 through Dec. 11, 204 new ones came in.
About the rise in permit applications toward the end of this year, El Paso County Sheriff spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby called it “a natural kind of knee jerk reaction … which is interesting since we are an open carry state.”
In Colorado, lawful gun owners don’t need a permit to carry a weapon as long it’s visible. If Coloradans want to carry a concealed weapon they must apply for a permit through their local sheriff’s office.
Last year the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office received a total of 7,275 applications for concealed handgun permits, more than any other county, according to data from the County Sheriffs of Colorado Association. Of those, 3,999 were new applicants and the rest were renewals. That was a dip from 2013, the year Colorado lawmakers passed new gun laws banning the sale of high-capacity magazines and requiring background checks for private gun sales. That year a record 12,261 people applied for concealed handgun permits in El Paso County, 9,653 of them new.
For the month of November 2015, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation processed 3,049 background checks for concealed weapon permit applicants statewide.