The Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office, which handles background checks and fingerprinting for those applying to get their handgun licenses, is averaging about 150 applications each month.
With permit requests increasing over the past few months, it has kept sheriff’s office personnel busy juggling many tasks on a given day.
Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth attributes part of that rush to uncertainty. Booth, who said many might be worried about federal bans on certain firearms or executive orders regarding the second amendment, said he supports a citizen’s right to bear arms.
“Many people — good honest citizens — carry weapons and I have no problem with that,” Booth said. “This way, the good guys have guns.”
Booth said it’s obvious from the numbers of applicants that more and more people are exercising their second amendment right to purchase firearms. As a result, many also want to become licensed to carry them, either concealed or openly as now allowed by state law.
PCSO employee Debra Christian, who handles the paperwork and background checks for handgun permits, said those tasks are just part of her many duties within the sheriff’s office, but are often the most demanding of her time as more and more people are applying for permits.
“Most of the time, it’s about all I can do — there will be three or four at a time lined up,” she said, with fingerprinting going non-stop.
Deputy Al Turner, whose main responsibility is working the front door screening area for courthouse security, handles the fingerprinting process for applicants.
With him having more and more applicants to fingerprint, he said reserve deputies are helping fill in his duties at front door security area.
While the typical number of applications averaged a steady pace of about 100 per month for a while, Christian said they’ve seen a definite increase over the past few months and now see between 140 to 150 applicants per month.
“We’ve had a rash the last three to five months,” Turner said, adding that one afternoon, he rolled 18 sets of fingerprints, one right after the other.
Turner said it’s not uncommon on busy days to fingerprint about 15 to 25 sets a day and it’s not unusual for there to be several people waiting at times.
Despite the workload, both Christian and Turner keep up the pace.
Booth, who said they have been quite busy with the permits, said the way his budget is for personnel, many staff members have collateral duties that change. That’s been the case with handgun license procedures, Booth said, but they do their best to have an open door policy to accommodate applicants at different times, which he feels is part of their job to protect and serve the community.
Page 2 of 2 - The ability for his personnel to juggle all these tasks and serve the public is “a good example of the kind of people we have at the sheriff’s office,” Booth said, praising their ongoing efforts.
It appears other sheriffs also are dealing with a busy workload.
While Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace said he supports the rights of citizens to own and bear arms, the influx of those seeking open carry licenses is costing his department in dollars and manpower.
In 2012, 800 Carter County residents applied for an open carry license. This year, 215 people have already applied — a sign the 2013 numbers will exceed the 2012 total.
“It is costing us. It has meant pulling someone from their regular job to handle the applications. The processing has become a full time job in itself and that in turn means it’s costing us financially — primarily in overtime pay,” Grace said. “Although the sheriff’s departments are handling the majority of the processing involved, sheriffs are only seeing $25 per application to cover costs, while the OSBI is getting $100 per application.”
Carter County Undersheriff Milton Anthony said applicants first must prove they have successfully completed an appropriate gun handling/safety course.
“Then they call the sheriff’s department to make an appointment to come in and begin the process,” Anthony said. “We make every effort to set appointments as quickly as we can. Right now that’s about 120 days from the time someone calls for an appointment.”
The problem? Each application, which includes taking fingerprints, takes approximately 45 minutes to one hour to complete.
“We are processing as quickly as we can. Some days we are seeing 12 to 14 people,” Anthony said.
Once the sheriff’s department processes the application, the information is sent to the OSBI for the completion of background checks and licensing approval.
“The bottom line is we have tremendous backlog and we’re not alone. It’s a frustrating situation. We know it’s frustrating for those people who are attempting to get licensed. They’re doing what they are supposed to do. They are taking their responsibility seriously. It’s just as frustrating for us. We’re doing our very best to move things along as quickly as we can,” Grace said.