WISE — Wise County and Norton residents made applications to obtain a license to carry a handgun concealed from plain view in record numbers last year, Wise County Clerk of Circuit Court J. Jack Kennedy reported over the weekend.
The 2012 issuance of concealed carry permits exceeded 2011 by 150, Kennedy said.
On average, the past three years Kennedy has issued 646 permits annually, with 574 in 2010 and 602 in 2011.
Last year the number soared to 763, exceeding by 21 percent the permits issued in 2011. Kennedy’s office estimated that more than 3,300 county and city residents are licensed to carry a concealed weapon. The permits must be renewed every five years.
Kennedy said the numbers have been rapidly growing as part of a statewide trend. More than 250,000 such permits have been issued statewide.
In the first two months of this year, Kennedy said more than 200 residents have either renewed or been issued concealed handgun permits, “setting up another record year if the monthly average of issuance continues throughout the year.’
A county or Norton resident may apply for a five-year concealed carry permit by placing an application with the Wise County Circuit Court Clerk’s office, along with a $50 fee and proof of gun training by the military, law enforcement or private commercial vendor.
Kennedy said his office has observed a trend in the growing number of women obtaining concealed carry permits but doesn’t have a breakdown of gender.
“We do recommend that couples have concealed handgun permits if they are driving the same car in which the gun may be stored,” he said. The process is becoming a sizeable administrative task for his office of the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, he added.
Kennedy said his office is developing an option for application renewal online to speed the process for background checks and lawful permit issuance, with an availability target date of July 1 of next year for the software testing.
Development of the online renewal option has been discussed with Virginia State Police Col. Steven Flaherty, Kennedy said, to gain mutual intent to pursue the online option. New state legislation may be needed in next year’s Virginia General Assembly to collect email addresses of permit holders by court officials, he said.
“We shall seek a sponsor for legislation in 2014, should the Virginia attorney general opine that it may be needed to aid in electronic processing,” Kennedy said. “We do not want undue delay to befall applicants locally or statewide.”
In Virginia, upon a criminal background check determined to be without felony convictions as well as recent driving under the influence or pending domestic violence charges, concealed carry permits are generally approved. The approval or appeals process is usually finalized within 30 to 45 days from the date of application, Kennedy said.
In a related matter, proposed legislation in this year’s session of the Virginia General Assembly would close public access to concealed carry permits on July 1 if approved by legislators and signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. The issue came up after newspaper in another state published the identities and addresses of holders of concealed carry permits.