More Oklahomans than ever are exercising their right to legally carry a gun.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation issued more than 60,000 handgun licenses to Oklahoma residents last year — a 50 percent increase compared to 2012 and more than double the number reported in 2011.
Of the year's licensees, a third are women and two-thirds men. The average age of those obtaining a license is 50.
Publicity after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in late 2012 may have contributed to the increase, firearms industry experts say. The gun debate that arose drove many customers of H&H Shooting Sports Complex to get trained and licensed, owner Miles Hall said. The store, at Interstate 40 and S Meridian Avenue, shattered sales records in the month after the Newtown shooting.
“Sometimes, people feel very scared and helpless. A concealed carry permit gives them a realistic way to put up a defense,” he said.
Also, publicity after a change in state law in 2012 that allows concealed carry permit holders to carry openly may have motivated some residents to get licensed — even if they didn't intend to carry openly, Hall said.
The law change didn't seem to cause open carry to become widespread. Suzi Rouse, president of the Oklahoma City Gun Club, said she can count on one hand the number of gun owners she's seen openly carrying since the law went into effect. “And I'm around a lot of gun owners,” she added.
More women are bearing arms
An increase in female shooters, reflected in the OSBI statistics, also has been seen by Rouse and Hall. The gun club hosts an annual target shooting clinic for women each fall, and demand for spots is exceptionally high.