LIMA — When Ohio first licensed citizens to carry a concealed handgun nearly 10 years ago, then U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine was a little skeptical.
He wasn't so sure it was a good idea.
But after nearly 10 years of concealed carry not only has DeWine, the current Ohio Attorney General whose office oversees the program, changed his mind but he became a supporter. He's also a licensed concealed carrier.
“People are just more comfortable with it and it's much more accepted that people can have a concealed carry permit,” DeWine said during a visit this week in Lima. “It's much more mainstream then it was when it started.”
Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish agreed.
People from all walks of life are getting their concealed carry license with women being one of the fastest growing groups. Crish also is hearing from a lot of people who opposed allowing citizens the right to carry concealed handguns but now support it, he said.
“That shock is over. When it first happened, it was 'Oh, that guy's carrying a gun.' It's now accepted by a lot of people. It's almost second nature. It's not, 'Wow, you got a CCW,'” Crish said.
Ohio continues to see record numbers this year in the people obtaining their concealed carry license. From July through September, state sheriffs issued 18,705 new licenses, which is a 34 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to statistics from DeWine's office.
Local counties also have set records. Allen County has issued 719 new licenses this year, compared to the 684 issued in the previous highest year of 2009. Auglaize County issued 531 compared to the 2009 total of 464 and Putnam County issued 275 this year compared to the 139 new licenses in 2009. By the end of the year there will be more than 400,000 people in the state with concealed carry licenses, which represents one out of every 22 adults in the state, according to statistics.
Local concealed carry Instructor Steve Farmer of Insight Firearms Training Development said, just like DeWine and Crish, he has witnessed a shift in the views of people toward concealed carry.
“I'm seeing people in class, who seven or eight years ago, were against it. They not only accept carrying a gun but more importantly understand those who do are not dangerous, they just want to protect themselves and their families,” Farmer said.
When Ohio developed its concealed carry law 10 years ago, Farmer said as the legislation made its way through the legislature opponents predicted blood in the streets, as well as saying Ohio's streets would become “the wild west.”
“The predictions never played out and now, many of those who were so opposed, are getting their licenses,” Farmer said.
Farmer never expected problems since concealed carriers have to be law-abiding citizens in the first place and go through a strict background check in order to get their license, he said.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said he, too, heard various concerns from citizens around town 10 years ago.
“I heard concerns and fears people would be engaged in road rage or neighbors not getting along, if someone had a gun, they would pull it and start shooting,” Martin said.
Martin said he didn't see that happen and law-abiding people didn't change.
“I have no concerns about honest, law-abiding citizens having the means to protect themselves,” Martin said.
DeWine said the training require also has made people who own guns, even if they choose not to carry, safer. Farmer said gun safety is a big part of every class.
“People are learning how to handle a gun safely, how to store a gun properly to keep it away from children. That's the real hidden gem in all of this but we can't let up. We need to keep pushing gun safety. Once accident is one too many,” Farmer said.