Gun purchases, permit applications increase in Augusta

Buddy Lichty estimates that his business has seen as many gun sales in the past 15 days as it did in all of June and July.

“There’s no end in sight that we can see,” said Lichty, the owner of Shooters gun shop and indoor range on Patriots Way in Augusta.

On Thursday the gun range swarmed with people waiting for a chance to shoot their weapons. Store manager Steve Fryant said there has been a waiting list for shooters since before Christmas and the crowd hasn’t dwindled.

“We’ve been absolutely swamped,” Fryant said.

Richmond County’s Probate Court has also been busy. According to clerks, 40 applications were submitted Wednesday to the concealed weapons permit department. Usually it falls between 10 and 15 daily.

Although applications always increase around Christmas, employees said it’s never this high.

Lichty said fear is driving interest – fear that a change in federal laws concerning guns might be coming, sparked by this month’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, and fear of being unable to protect oneself when necessary.

Teddy Olson brought with him a female friend to shoot at the range Thursday.

“I’m a little old lady, but I’m not going to be a little old lady victim,” the 68-year-old woman said.

After a few run-ins with people in her neighborhood who were on drugs, Olson said the woman decided to start carrying a gun. She now carries a concealed weapon and warns others that she is armed.

A sign in her front yard reads: “Nothing in this house is worth dying for.”

Edward Batey, a qualified Air Force small arms instructor, said he has seen a renewed interest in firearms instruction since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 children and six adults were killed.

Batey said he isn’t sure what the answer is to preventing such tragedies, but he said he does not believe it’s taking guns away from the public.

“They shouldn’t blame people who carry guns; blame the criminal,” he said.

For Leslie Polatty, the Sandy Hook shooting is on her mind every day as she goes to work teaching elementary school children.

Polatty, of Evans, practiced target shooting at Shooters with her family Thursday. After some time on the range she said she felt more comfortable with shooting a gun, and so did her daughter, Anna Kelley Chapman.

Although Polatty does not believe teachers should be armed, she said she would feel safer for herself and the children if there was a guard at school.

Polatty said a few of the children in her classroom have brought up the Sandy Hook shooting and have begun to ask why the school doors are locked now.

“It definitely makes you more aware,” she said.

Jesse Pokrzywinski, of Harlem, who was shopping for another gun Thursday, said he’s glad to see more gun interest from the public and hopes to see more respect for the weapons and the sport overall.

“I hope legal gun ownership explodes,” he said.

APPLICATIONS

Richmond County applications for concealed weapons permits:

January 153

February 248

March 237

April 128

May 158

June 120

July 162

August 147

September 119

October 153

November 157

December * 214

* Through Friday

 

Note: Numbers include only the number of applications received, not the number of permits granted.

 

Source: Richmond County Probate Court

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