On an average day, 10 to 15 people apply for the weapons license at the Columbia County Justice Center, said Probate Judge Alice Padgett.
On Monday, the court staff handled 22 applicants before the photo and signature machine failed, leaving several applicants to return at a later date. On Tuesday, 33 people applied for the license. Some were renewals, but most requests were for new licenses, Padgett said.
“Somebody said they heard the price was going up; that’s why they were doing it before January,” Padgett said. “The price is not going up. We’ve not been notified, and we would have already been notified.”
Patrick Caudill, of Grovetown, applied for a license Wednesday because he enjoys sport shooting, including clay pigeons.
“My dad has his (license), and I just turned 21 three months ago,” Caudill said. “I’m home for the holidays from school, so I figured I’d get it. I was planning on getting it anyway. It’s something good to have.”
Padgett said none of the applicants said recent talk of stricter gun laws prompted them to apply, but she suspects heated discussions since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are the reason.
“Nobody has said it, but …,” Padgett said, adding that her office has seen a rise in weapons license applications all year. “I don’t know how a concealed-weapons license prevents gun control or helps gun control.”
Applicants must pay the $72.25 fee, provide a driver’s license and be fingerprinted and photographed before a background check is begun. The person is licensed in 15 to 30 days and receives it in the mail. It is good for five years.
Permitted residents are allowed to carry a handgun or knife except in prohibited areas, including government buildings, jail or prison, places of worship, mental health facilities, bars (unless otherwise allowed by the owner), a nuclear power facility and within 150 feet of a polling location.
Weapons also are banned from schools unless the permitted carrier has it in a vehicle or on his or her body when picking up a pupil.
“One of the reasons people get these is when they go and buy a gun they don’t have to go through the background check because they’ve already done it for the permit,” Padgett said.
The Columbia County Probate Court accepts applications in the Evans office or the Appling office next to the county courthouse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
For more information, call the Probate Court office in Evans at (706) 312-7254 or visit www.columbiacountyga.gov.
A call Thursday to Richmond County Probate Court seeking its numbers on gun permits was not returned.