Paris Attacks Spurs Spike in Gun Permit Requests in Pennsylvania

Following the recent terror attacks in Paris, officials in Pennsylvania say applications for gun permits have spiked.

Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh of Chester County claims the increase she has seen has “everything to do with the attacks.”   On the Monday and Tuesday following the attacks, her office received 85 applications for permits or renewals, at least double the daily average from October, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  And it didn’t stop there.  By noon on Wednesday, her office had another 20 people show up seeking permits.  “People are frightened and more aware of self-defense,” she said.

Hers is not the only county to see an increased demand.  In Allegheny County, the Sheriff’s Office had to go on Facebook and ask people to not call the office because it was swamped with inquiries from people wanting to acquire or renew permits, and implored them to submit their permit requests by email instead.

The attack evidently is having effects 3,700 miles away, in West Chester, Doylestown, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere.

Bucks County Sheriff Edward J. Donnelly said requests for permits had doubled the following week, averaging about 40 requests a day at his office in Doylestown.  “People get a little excited about things and they want the protection,” Donnelly said.

George Washington University Law School Professor Robert Cottrol said it shouldn’t be surprising to see such spikes. He said they commonly occur after natural disasters and civil-unrest incidents because people might feel that in times of crisis, they would be more vulnerable because security forces would be distracted.

“They looked at Paris and saw a situation where basically, large numbers of police and military personnel were drawn to the different incidents,” Cottrol said. “They’re probably thinking, if there’s a similar event here … ‘Well, I’m going to have to protect myself.’ ”

The spike was not just felt by the sheriffs’ offices.  So, too, did proprietors of gun stores and shooting ranges experience an increased demand.

“We can tell if there is a headline by how many people come into the store,” said firearms instructor Ed Hartzel at Clayton’s Hunting & Fishing in Horsham, Montgomery County. Gun sales there are up about 25 percent in the week following the Paris attacks, he said.

Bob Bonnett, general manager at Targetmaster in Chadds Ford, said he saw a “huge spike in business” after the 2012 shootings at a school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and the resulting talk of gun restrictions.

“People are concerned about their safety,” said Bob Kostaras, owner of Classic Pistol Gun Range in Southampton, Bucks County, who says an increase in weapons sales started after the 9/11 terror attacks. “People have the right to defend themselves. There are a lot of good people out there who are willing to protect others.”

The spike, however, was not seen everywhere.  Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties didn’t see a spike in applications.

About 870,000 Pennsylvanians, or 8.7 percent of the population, have permits to carry guns, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.