Lorain County

Lorain County residents continue to get a handle on handguns, according to data released by Attorney General Richard Cordray.

Cordray recently announced concealed handgun licenses reached a record high in 2009. Statistics compiled by county sheriffs’ offices throughout the state show a jump of almost 23,000 licenses from the prior year’s report. There were 56,691 concealed carry licenses issued statewide in 2009.

For Lorain County, the data indicates a continuing climb as well. For 2007, there were 499 local handgun owners who completed the required training, applied for a license and received it. In 2008, there were 606. That figure jumped by almost 200 for 2009, coming in at 798.

“If there’s something to take away from these numbers, it is that more and more Ohioans are comfortable exercising their right to carry concealed handguns,” Cordray said in a press release.

But there may be more to it, according to local law

enforcement officials. Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti, as well as area firearms instructors, shed light on why more and more citizens continue – at least when it comes to handguns – to bear arms.

“My personal opinion is it’s the economic times we’re in,” Stammitti said Thursday. “I had to lay off 12 full-time and eight part-time deputies. People are feeling less safe.”

Aaron Bober, a concealed carry instructor and Sheffield Lake police officer, echoed that feeling.

“(The numbers) are continuing to climb for two reasons: It’s because police departments are laying off personnel, and there’s a Democrat in office (i.e. in the White House),” he said. “Their carrying a gun is a lot easier than carrying a police officer. With the crime rates these days, I don’t see a problem with it.”

Sgt. Thomas Koglman of the North Ridgeville Police Department, who is also a certified firearms instructor, attributes the increase to a program gaining momentum with each passing year. Ohio’s concealed carry law went into effect April 8, 2004; the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office has issued 4,817 licenses since then.

“There’s not any one reason, but I think the longer you have a program in the state … I think it takes some time for the statistics to catch up to the demand,” Koglman said Friday. “The more people who have (the license), the more people you know who have one, which maybe makes you think, ‘I should get one, too.’”

State parole officer Joseph Monteleone of Avon called enrollments for his concealed carry classes “a hit-or-miss thing.”

“I haven’t personally seen an increase,” he said. “Most people, in general, get trained for their own personal safety. They do it so they have some training, and they want to have a weapon in the home. Some learn for their personal protection if they have issues with estranged spouses or because of threats.”

The majority of Koglman’s students are female.

“Most of the people I’ve instructed have been women, by a large margin,” he said, adding when pistols were first produced, they were considered “an equalizer.”

“From the philosophical side, if you’re not sure you could use one, you’re probably better off not getting one,” he said.

There hasn’t been any negative impact to fulfilling their law enforcement duties, even with the vast number of citizens carrying concealed handguns on a daily basis, according to the officers.

“We have not had any problems with this law,” Stammitti said. “It’s had a very minimal impact. The impact is on the criminals; the law-abiding citizens are following the law. Criminals are not going to get permits from me.”

“Criminals maybe have a sense of unease (because) law-abiding (concealed carry) citizens get a psychological edge. The criminals can’t be sure who has a gun anymore.”

“As long as people tell me they have a firearm … it’s not a big deal to me,” Bober said of his reaction when making traffic stops. “That’s because I know all the training you have to go through and the criteria you have to meet for a background check.”

Koglman is more concerned about people’s actions when they discover they can’t take their firearm to places where signs are posted that prohibit gun possession inside.

“The bigger danger of carrying a weapon is when you start handling it,” Koglman explained. “The real danger is, you have a gun … then you have people messing with it in the car because they can’t take it into the business they’re at.”

He hasn’t “really seen any difference,” however, when conducting his job.

“It makes no difference,” he said. “(Criminals) are going to do what they want regardless. Of all the cars that I’ve stopped that have come up with (their owner having a

license for) concealed carry, none of them have actually been carrying. I’m not worried about it.”

Contact Beth Mlady at mladywrites@yahoo.com

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