The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation received a record number of first-time handgun license applications in January, shattering the old record set in 1996.
The 4,970 initial applications accepted by OSBI last month outnumbered the previous record by more than 1,000. The old record was set in February 1996, the second month after the enactment of the Self Defense Act.
Including renewals, the state agency received 6,107 handgun license applications in January.
The number of first-time applications received last month outpaced January 2012 by more than 3,000.
A news release from the OSBI states that officials won't speculate why the number spiked in January.
“The OSBI will not offer a reason for the increase,” the release states. “Due to the length of the entire process of getting one's gun license, it is difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint a relationship between a public event and someone applying for a license, e.g. Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (and the recent) presidential election.”
The release did state that the increased interest in handgun licenses has strained the bureau's already stretched-thin resources.
“The OSBI has hired more full-time and part-time workers for the Self Defense Unit,” the release states. “The bureau is also using employees in other divisions of OSBI to help.”
Insiders, gun owners speculate
While OSBI officials are hesitant to speak on the recent increase in the number of people seeking their handgun licenses, those who work in the gun-selling industry and some gun owners believe it has something to do with uncertainty in Washington, D.C., and the perception that President Barack Obama wants to ban certain kinds of weapons and take away certain gun rights.
Gun owners and retailers interviewed during the record-setting month of January said there is definitely a connection between the president and the rise in Oklahoma handgun licenses, although other factors are certainly affecting the growth.
Darren Burger, co-owner of the gun shop Locked and Loaded in Choctaw, said he believes a “fear of legislation” is driving the current upward trends in gun sales and applications handgun licenses.
Burger said even though the licenses aren't being specifically targeted by the Obama administration — which is focusing more on background checks and limiting what kinds of ammunition and weapons are available to the public — people typically become nervous when the president starts to focus on gun control.
“There is just a lot of uncertainty, especially around elections,” Burger said. “People don't know what's coming, so it's that fear of the unknown.
“People are in a rush to get something people are telling them they can't have … even if they haven't told them anything yet.”
People attending a recent government-mandated handgun license class at H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City said they are nervous about Obama's stance on guns but claimed they had been planning to get the license anyway.
Latonia McDaniel, who took a firearms safety and familiarization course last month at H&H, said she had long been planning to get her handgun license for personal protection.
“I want to be able to protect myself, as a woman, and my kids,” McDaniel said. “Plus, I grew up around guns, and I know how to use them. It's the next step.”
McDaniel said the recent talk of increased gun control may have led to her taking the class, although it wasn't the only reason.
“It was a bit of a factor,” she said. “But it was definitely something I've thought about for some time.”