The Pittsylvania County Circuit Court office issued 1,809 concealed carry permits in 2018, a record number for the county, according to numbers from the clerk’s office.
The number of concealed carry permits issued has fluctuated during the past several years, but the figures rose steadily between 2015 — with 1,380 permits — to last year, deputy clerk Arlene Worley said.
Pittsylvania County Clerk of Court Mark Scarce said the office is receiving somewhere between seven and nine applications daily.
“It keeps us all busy,” he said.
Neither state police, the sheriff’s office or the circuit court could confirm the exact number of active concealed carry permits in Pittsylvania County, but Scarce said “only a handful” would have been suspended.
Since 2015, the county circuit court has issued 7,743 concealed carry permits. Using the United States Census Bureau’s 2017 population of 61,258, about 1 in 8 Pittsylvania residents have a concealed carry permit.
Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said he has seen an increase in applications during the past eight to 10 years. While he doesn’t know exactly what to attribute the increase to, he and his department do not feel threatened by such a large percentage of residents maintaining the right to carry.
“I think those people that apply are the law-abiding citizens,” he said. “They want to do the right thing by having the permit.”
Scarce said more residents apply after mass shootings or highly publicized incidents across the country. On his first day in office in January 2016, the court office received 34 applications.
Election years also seem to result in more applications, Scarce said. In a recent survey, The Washington Post found 75% of Virginia voters believe gun policy is a “very important” factor for their vote in the Virginia legislature.
To obtain a concealed carry permit, residents with a valid government- issued ID must show the clerk’s office they either were honorably discharged from service, have taken a class certified by the National Rifle Association or taken a hunter safety class from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Many of these courses are available online.
The clerk’s office then passes the application onto the sheriff’s office, which runs both state- and federal-level background checks. Assuming no red flags are raised, the application is then passed to the local commonwealth attorney, who gives it to a judge for the final signing.
The court has 45 days to issue the permit, unless the applicant is disqualified.
Statewide, all of these transactions are tracked by the Firearms Transaction Center, which is part of the Virginia State Police.
Former law enforcement and military personnel who have been honorably discharged do not have to undergo the classes, but still require background checks.
Applicants who are renewing their licenses do not have to take the class again, but still must undergo a criminal background check. The circuit court could not provide information on how many of the applications are renewals versus new customers.
According to Virginia law, the clerk must charge $10 per application, while the state police may issue a fee not more than $5 for processing of the application. The lion’s share of the fee comes from the local law enforcement, in this case the sheriff’s office. This charge cannot be more than $35. Ultimately, the department decided to maintain the current fee of $50.
In the Sept. 17 work session, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors considered the current application fee for a concealed carry permit and how it stacks up to surrounding localities. Henry County charges $35, Campbell and Bedford counties charge $15 and all the rest of the surrounding counties and cities charge the $50 fee.
The Firearms Transaction Center and the state police could not be reached for this story.
An August presentation from the Virginia Crime Commission indicates there currently are 596,419 active concealed carry permits issued by circuit courts in the commonwealth. Statewide, the number of resident concealed handgun permits issued annually rose to a high of 166,078 last year.
Statewide, the number of arrests for use of a firearm in commission of a felony had declined by 43% while arrests of felons in possession of a firearm have risen by 30% since 2009.
As of Thursday afternoon, the county circuit court had issued 1,244 permits this year.
Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.