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Oklahoma sees a record year for handgun permits

More women are bearing arms


More Oklahomans than ever are exercising their right to legally carry a gun.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation issued more than 60,000 handgun licenses to Oklahoma residents last year — a 50 percent increase compared to 2012 and more than double the number reported in 2011.

Of the year’s licensees, a third are women and two-thirds men. The average age of those obtaining a license is 50.

Publicity after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in late 2012 may have contributed to the increase, firearms industry experts say. The gun debate that arose drove many customers of H&H Shooting Sports  to get trained and licensed, owner Miles Hall said. The store, at Interstate 40 and S Meridian Avenue, shattered sales records in the month after the Newtown shooting.

“Sometimes, people feel very scared and helpless. A concealed carry permit gives them a realistic way to put up a defense,” he said.

Also, publicity after a change in state law in 2012 that allows concealed carry permit holders to carry openly may have motivated some residents to get licensed — even if they didn’t intend to carry openly, Hall said.

The law change didn’t seem to cause open carry to become widespread. Suzi Rouse, president of the Oklahoma City Gun Club, said she can count on one hand the number of gun owners she’s seen openly carrying since the law went into effect. “And I’m around a lot of gun owners,” she added.

More women are bearing arms

An increase in female shooters, reflected in the OSBI statistics, also has been seen by Rouse and Hall. The gun club hosts an annual target shooting clinic for women each fall, and demand for spots is exceptionally high.

At H&H, which offers the state-mandated training required for handgun permit applicants, nearly half of sales are to women, Hall says. Customers are racially diverse as well. “It’s not a white men only club anymore,” he said.

According to an OSBI report released Tuesday, there were 60,628 applications approved in 2013. Of those, just over 90 percent of the applicants were white, 5 percent Indian, 2.6 percent black, 1.3 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent identified as Asian or other.

The agency denied licenses to 835 applicants in 2013. The most common reason for denial was having a prior drug conviction; other reasons include providing a false or misleading statement on the application and failing to submit the required fee, among others.

Thirty-eight people had their licenses revoked and 109 were suspended. Most of the revocations and suspensions were made because the license holder had been convicted of a felony.

A total of 190,684 Oklahomans are licensed to carry a handgun, as of Friday, according to OSBI. To become licensed, an applicant is required to complete a firearms safety course. Licenses cost $100 for five years or $200 for 10.

Felons and those who have been charged or convicted of certain misdemeanors, including assault and battery, aggravated assault and battery, stalking, domestic abuse, drug use or possession of drugs are ineligible. In addition, applicants who have two or more convictions for public intoxication or driving under the influence or are undergoing treatment for certain mental illnesses are not eligible.