The number of Oklahomans applying for handgun licenses in 2013 is on pace to greatly surpass last year's record numbers, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
Through the first six months of the year, nearly 37,000 license applications have been received by the OSBI, compared to about 46,000 for all of last year.
If the trend continues, the number of annual applications will have nearly tripled since 2011, when 26,000 applied.
The permits allow Oklahoma residents to carry a handgun in public. In 2012, Oklahoma law was expanded to permit the open carry of a handgun in public. The previous law allowed only for the concealed carry of handguns.
Certain people, such as felons and those being treated for mental health problems, are not eligible for the licenses.
“We don't know what is spurring the need,” said Jessica Brown, media spokeswoman for the OSBI. “We don't know why it went up so much.”
Other states are reporting similar increases.
Nationally, advocates, experts and some in law enforcement have attributed the recent increases to loosening handgun laws, as well as high-profile violence, such as the December 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Betsy Randolph, state trooper and spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, said she thinks that violent acts in recent years, such as the massacre in Connecticut, and talk of more gun control have caused more people to purchase firearms and seek concealed- or open-carry permits.
“I think the murder of children there, in Sandy Hook (Elementary School), played a part,” she said.
Here’s a look at the recent increase in applications in Oklahoma. Relatively few applications are denied.
Here’s a county-by-county look at the rate of concealed-carry permit applications in 2012, plus a list of the 10 counties with the highest rates: