By SEAN ROWLEY
While more and more licenses are requested by Oklahomans to publicly carry handguns openly or concealed, recent data suggest Cherokee County citizens apply less often than elsewhere in the state.
Through the first half of 2013, applications to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for handgun carry licenses approached 37,000. There were 46,000 requests throughout 2012.
Of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, Cherokee County ranked 62nd per capita in applications for handgun carry licenses in 2012. About 500 requests were made from a population of 41,398, for an average of 1,215 per 100,000.
Undersheriff Jason Chennault said that citizens of Cherokee County probably are requesting handgun carry licenses less frequently than the state average, adding that “very few permit requests are turned down.”
Chennault added that local law enforcement generally is not concerned about citizens carrying firearms.
“We know the bad guys are going to be armed, so we aren’t very worried about law-abiding citizens being armed,” he said. “As for the handgun carry permits, we do all our background checks as the OSBI requires.”
Convicted felons and those under mental health treatment may not receive licenses. Since Nov. 1, 2012, the Oklahoma handgun license has allowed holders the option of carrying openly or concealed.
Channault said concealed carry is a better choice for most situations, and that from his personal perspective he would prefer people conceal their firearms.
“But honestly, I haven’t seen anyone who carried open,” he said. “I figure most people would rather carry concealed. A person carrying open might be questioned or hassled by people, and those carrying concealed don’t need to worry about that.”
Tony Boyle, owner of BS&G Pawn, said applications for carry licenses should not be confused with actual handgun ownership in Cherokee County.
“I do a larger volume of long guns,” he said. “I only sell about one or two handguns a week, but I think there a lot of handguns in the county. You don’t need a carry license just to own a handgun.”
No studies or surveys have been done of Cherokee County to determine why its citizens are less likely to seek carry permits, but Boyle suggested there might be some apprehension about providing information to the state.
“This is a rural county, and I believe people are independent and don’t want government intrusion,” he said. “Maybe they would rather not carry, or they may do it anyway and risk the fine.”
Those applying for a handgun carry license must fill out a form to be sent to the OSBI. The form requires a physical description, two passport style photographs, employment status and employer, all addresses of residence for the last three years, questions concerning citizenship, criminal history, substance abuse, protective orders and mental health. License fee is $100 for five years or $200 for 10 years.
Two lightly populated counties led the list for applications. A population of 4,104 applied for nearly 100 permits in Ellis County for a rate of 2,412 per 100,000. Oklahoma’s westernmost county, Cimarron, had a population of 2,385 which applied for about 50 permits.
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