Anyone headed to the Cambria County Courthouse for a permit to carry a concealed weapon may find the process more time consuming than in the past.
Sheriff Bob Kolar said Thursday that the applications for handgun permits are up by nearly 50 percent over the same period last year.
Adding to the problem is the time it now takes for approval or denial of a permit application from the Pennsylvania State Police in Harrisburg, he said.
The rush for gun permits is something being felt in many parts of the state, putting increased pressure on authorities to run the background checks.
“It’s nothing to have four of the six clerks in my office doing permits,” Kolar said. “In the past it took one clerk.”
Gun permit applications have increased over the past two months following multiple shootings across the country, but Kolar said he sees a jump in requests every time gun control talk heats up.
Figures provided by Kolar show his office processed 800 applications from Dec. 1, 2011, to the end of February 2012.
That number jumped to 1,100 from Dec. 1 of last year through Thursday morning.
The increase of gun permits in Somerset County is even greater, said Janie Gnagey, the sheriff’s clerk in charge of the process.
“We even go higher than 50 percent. I’d say it’s more like 60 percent,” she said.
Under the current system, the resident fills out the application, usually at the sheriff’s office, and pays the $20 fee. Their information is phoned into Harrisburg, a process that takes 10 to 15 minutes per application.
“It’s tough when you have people waiting,” Kolar said of the lines that sometime form at his office. “They get mad at us, but we don’t have any control.”
Compounding the problem recently was a statewide glitch that shut the system down in Harrisburg for a period of two or three days, he said.
Kolar, now in his fourth term as sheriff, said he has been asked repeatedly about his position on gun control, be it by phone or on social media websites.
It is a position he feels strongly about.
It’s his job to protect the citizens of Cambria County and preserve individual rights and freedoms, Kolar said in a statement he made available to The Tribune-Democrat.
“In accordance with the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, I believe that law abiding citizens have the right to own, possess, keep and bear arms,” his statement read. “I will not support any efforts to infringe upon the constitutional liberties of responsible citizens of Cambria County.”
This being said, Kolar asked that anyone coming to the courthouse for a gun permit allow a little extra time, and bring their patience along.