by Andrea Plunkett
From universal background checks to assault weapons bans, almost everyone has an opinion on gun policy. No matter what side of the gun control fence you're on, one thing isn't up for debate: gun sales aren't slowing down and neither is interest in Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permits.
That's especially true here in Platte County.
Rachael Wohletz, a Platte County resident, owns a gun shop. Her father had a federal firearms license and she was raised around guns. When Obama articulated his position on gun control in 2008, she saw a spike in ammunition prices and scarcity of both guns and ammunition.
“I have a picture on the front door of my store with Obama's picture that says 'Firearms Salesman of the Year,’” Wohletz said. “It's truer today than it was when he was elected.”
After recent shooting tragedies stunned the nation, Wohletz says gun sales skyrocketed to three to four times what they were in 2008. She attributes the behavior to concerns about global stability, personal protection and uncertainties about US gun policy.
If there's one agency that can tell you about the interest in guns it's the Platte County Sheriff's Department. That's because they're responsible for reviewing and issuing concealed carry permits for residents in Platte County.
To receive a concealed carry license in Platte County, you must be at least 21 years old, have a government issued photo ID, proof of a Social Security number and documentation showing successful completion of the required firearms safety course from a Platte County-approved instructor.
Applicants must bring the required items, as well as a payment of $92.50, to the Platte County Sherriff's Office. A Missouri CCW license is valid for three years from the date of issuance.
In Missouri the “CCW License” is called an endorsement because it goes on another document, a driver's license or on a Missouri State Non-Driver's Identification Card.
Although there are several steps to getting a CCW permit, it hasn't slowed down demand.
In 2012, there were 561 people who applied for a new CCW permit in Platte County, a 30% increase from 2011.
By the end of March 2013, the Platte County Sheriff's Office received 250 new permit applications already this year. According to one sheriff's department sergeant, almost half of those 250 applications came in the month of March.
Local CCW instructor Tom Berry believes that the increase is predictable and can be attributed to the political climate.
“People are afraid of losing their 2nd Amendment rights,” he said. “People realize they are the only ones who can really be responsible for their own safety.”
By Missouri law, CCW courses are required to be at least eight hours long and cover topics such as basic gun safety, maintenance and use.
There is a long list of Platte County-approved CCW instructors. But when it comes to choosing a concealed carry course, it is buyer beware. Not all concealed carry classes are created equal. Most Missouri counties are willing to certify an instructor if they have an NRA pistol instructor's certification or equivalent.
“If you're looking for a CCW instructor, be sure to ask about prior training and experience,” Berry explained. “A NRA pistol course has nothing to do with self defense. You want an instructor with real life experience.”
Due to a 2011 change in Missouri law, all CCW students must qualify on both a semi automatic pistol and a revolver. Now students must shoot a 50-round practice and a 20-round test from both a pistol and a revolver, a total of 140 rounds.
These new shooting requirements worry Berry.
“The new requirements are almost an endurance test,” he explains. “Older people and those with physical limitations have trouble shooting over 100 rounds at a time.”
If he could revise the law, Berry says he would reduce the amount of rounds required to a 30-round practice and a 20-round test.
But on the whole, Second Amendment advocates were pleased with the 2011 changes.
“One thing they did was lower the CCW age from 23 to 21,” Wohletz said. “Now if you're old enough to own a gun, you're old enough to get a CCW.”
There's no such thing as a typical CCW applicant.
“I've taught men and women of all ages, from 21-year olds to a 76-years old,” Berry said. “I've had people in wheelchairs, people on oxygen.”
One gun sales demographic that continues to grow is women. From custom guns to purse holsters, the market for women-focused guns and accessories is booming. As a gun shop owner, Wohletz is a big proponent of women owning guns.
“When I talk to women who are hesitant about shooting a gun, I tell them 'you have no idea how much you'll love it until you pull the trigger,'” she says. “It's really empowering and it gives a sense of security.”
If recent trends are any indication, it's not just women who feel more secure owning a weapon, and Platte County is no exception.