Published Date Written by Gail OberLACONIA – Area police departments are reporting a spike in the number of concealed pistol permit requests while local guns sellers are also reporting an increase in weapons purchases.
Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said his department traditionally gets about six or seven new or renewal requests monthly, however, he said, the average since the Newtown massacre has risen to between 16 to 21 monthly.
Belmont Police Chief Mark Lewandowski said he has also seen a marked increase as have police in Tilton and Gilford.
Although the RSA 159:3 provides that the mayor of a city, selectmen of a town, the sheriff of an unincorporated place or of a county who has a town without a police chief, can designate a particular person to issues licenses, locally all police chiefs assume that responsibility.
Lewandowski and Adams both said they personally review each application and sign it or decline it. Each chief also said about 98 percent of the people who apply are approved and, for the most part, the applications are routine.
New Hampshire state law also prevents the disclosure of the names of applicants and the holders of concealed carry permits, except for law enforcement while performing official duties.
Adams said he thinks the recent surge in Laconia stems from Newtown and, in some part, fear that federal lawmakers may try to restrict firearms sales and concealed carry laws. "We are seeing an increase in first-timers," he said.
Gilford, Tilton, Belmont and Laconia say the average increase of permits so far this year is about three-times for the same period last year.
In New Hampshire, which has some of the more relaxed gun laws in the county, a permit is only required to carry a concealed weapon. The cost is $10 while the fees for out-of-state residents is $100.
Adams said part of the process requires a background check and people with histories of domestic violence are not allowed to carry concealed weapons. Convicted felons are not allowed to own any weapons of any kinds.
Bob Gillespie, the owner of Belmont Fire Arms and Range, said he has seen a increase in all kinds of firearms sales.
He said his impression was that as soon as people learned about the Newtown tragedy they felt President Obama would seek to restrict gun purchases.
"I actually expected a flurry of activity after the (November) election but didn't see one," he said.
Gillespie said he was shocked and saddened by the Newtown shooting and removed all his television advertising during the weeks following the shooting to show some respect for the victims and their families.
He also said that while he has seen an increase in the number of military-type, so-called assault weapons, he has also seen an increase in traditional hunting weapons and shotguns.
Gillespie rents weapons at his range and said most people rent hand guns and hunting rifles.
He said he has also seen an increase in gun sales to women, a trend he said began after the machete murder of Kimberly Cates and the maiming of her daughter Jaime in Mont Vernon in 2009.
"Many people have a real fear of home invasion," Gillespie said.
He also said enrollment in his gun safely classes "is over the top," something he finds encouraging.
"I highly recommend first-time gun owners take some kind of training classes," he said. He also said taking gun safety classes, whether with him or some of New Hampshire's many ranges and gun clubs can also help a first-time gun owner decide which weapon is best for him or her.