The lack of experienced shooters applying for Georgia Weapons Carry Permits worries one area probate judge.
After receiving 1,940 applications in 2012, Richmond County Probate Court reports that it has received more than 2,048 applications through November, an 8 percent increase.
Probate Court Judge Harry James says the increase could likely put more residents in danger rather than prevent loss of life.
“We are licensing people who don’t know how to operate or store their weapons properly,” he said. “We do have people who are genuinely handicapped, but the background check will check out. They are entitled to carry a gun, and I cannot turn them down.”
In recent years, James said that he has seen Richmond County residents as old as 90 applying for their Georgia Weapons Carry Permit. In Georgia, applicants aren’t tested for firearm proficiency, he said, which could be disastrous for gun license owners who are also first-time shooters.
With Georgia’s current gun laws, the application process is simple, Columbia County Probate Court Judge Alice Padgett said.
After paying the $79.25 application fee and filling out paperwork, applicants are only required to be fingerprinted and photographed. The entire application process, Padgett said, takes roughly 15 minutes to complete.
Once they pass the mandatory background check by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, applicants will get the stamp of approval from their county’s probate judge and receive their license by mail. That could take about two weeks from the day the application is submitted.
Padgett saw a more than 12 percent increase in weapons carry applications in 2013. She is reserved on her opinions regarding applicant experience.
“I don’t think it’s my role to voice my opinions on what the law should require,” she said. “That’s up to the legislators. As long as the applicants pass their background check, I issue them their permit.”
South Carolina takes a stricter approach to issuing weapons permits.
Residents must attend an eight-hour course presented by a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division-certified concealed weapon permit instructor before they can start the application process, said Chris Medlin, the owner and primary instructor of Your Best Defense in Aiken.
One part of the course, which covers everything from legal issues to gun safety, requires its students to pass a 50-question multiple choice test with a score of 70 percent or higher.
Students are also required to fire 50 rounds at a human-sized target from 10 yards to 15 yards away in the presence of an instructor. In order to pass the course, 70 percent of the shots must strike the target.
Courses such as the one taught by Medlin run permit hopefuls about $100.
After passing the course, applicants may submit their paperwork – which includes proof of training, fingerprints and a $50 application fee – to SLED. SLED will then verify that the applicant is legally allowed to own a firearm and that the instructor is certified before issuing the permit. The process, Medlin said, could take up to 90 days.
The added measures are worth the trouble, said Medlin, who boasts more than 18 years of law enforcement experience.
“The thugs are going to get a gun regardless,” he said. “I want the good guys, who are knowledgeable and trained, to be able to defend themselves. When they do it, they’ll know to do the right thing at the right time.”
Medlin holds his course most Saturdays at Chime Bell Baptist Church in Aiken, averaging about a dozen students at a time.
Lynn Rapp, 58, of Graniteville, attended Medlin’s most recent class, and she passed her shooting test with a score of 100. She said learning the gun laws before being allowed to carry is “common sense.”
“If you’re assuming, you’re going to get in trouble,” she said.
Though Medlin said he respects Georgia’s stance on gun laws, he said he would like to see more states require training before residents are allowed to carry a weapon in public.
“If you’re not taught, how can you be expected to know?” he said. “You need to have training before you start carrying a handgun.”