It fits with what’s occurred over the last year in other parts of the country, where dealers report that guns are flying off store shelves, when little else is moving.
The reasons for the surge in Georgia vary — for some permit seekers it’s based on political uncertainties. For others, it was a law change last year that opened up the places where a concealed weapon is allowed.
For still others, it’s about plain old protection. Long gone are the days when the front door could be left unlocked. More and more, locks don’t suffice and steel bars have replaced wire-framed screens. Some crime rates, property crime in particular, are up across metro Atlanta, from the suburbs to intown neighborhoods, where a recent string of violent crime has residents banding together in ways they might not have imagined until now.
In areas where high crime already was an issue, things could get worse before they get better, particularly as officials wrestle with having to cut public safety services to help their budgets. And in areas known to be safer, perceptions are changing — areas like Atlanta’s gentrifying intown neighborhoods.
In recent weeks, motivated by the shooting death last month of Grant Park bartender John Henderson, residents have taken their concerns public, showing up in force for anti-crime rallies, town hall meetings and community vigils to raise awareness and urge change.
In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta police Chief Richard Pennington said “according to the data that we have, there are some neighborhoods where the data don’t go along with what has actually transpired in their community. We’ve had reductions [in crime] in a lot of those neighborhoods. And then, some of the neighborhoods that we’ve had an increase in burglary and property crimes, those neighborhoods haven’t had a large outcry.”
2nd Amendment rights
In Cobb County, where Ely and Brown filed their applications, the increase in applications was even more dramatic than it was statewide. Records show permit applications were up in the county by 139.6 percent for 2008, from 3,660 to 8,770.
It caught the eye of Cobb County Probate Judge Keli Wolk on Jan. 2 of this year, her first day in office. By 2 p.m. that day, 71 people had submitted permit applications, Wolk said.
“There are quite a few people in our license area filling out applications at most any time of the day,” she said.
Officials in other counties report a palpable rush. “We literally sometimes have to get deputies to direct our lines,” said Lorraine Stafford, who processes permit applications in Gwinnett County.
Permit applications were up 85.7 percent in Gwinnett, from 3,952 in 2007 to 7,340 in 2008. In the first 15 days of January, another 500 applicants walked through the door, Stafford said.
Ely, who lives in Acworth and works in building in Atlanta, fits with the majority of the more than three dozen, mostly first-time applicants who were interviewed in person, by phone or by e-mail about their decision to obtain a firearms permit. They expressed concern that the Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress may take aim at the Second Amendment by banning certain weapons or even raising the costs of some guns and ammunition.