February 16, 2013

Demand for concealed-weapons permits in Maine leads to big backlog

The increase in concealed-weapons applications may be tied to President Obama's re-election.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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As gun sales have jumped in Maine, so has the demand for concealed-weapons permits.

File photo/ Carl D. Walsh

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PERMITS ISSUED

The following represents the number of concealed-weapons permits issued annually by the Maine State Police:

2006: 4,075

2007: 3,543

2008: 3,912

2009: 5,706

2010: 5,975

2011: 5,705

2012: 7,574

But there isn't much to fear of crime in Milo.

Pickel came to Maine after a career as a New York City detective. He said that, in New York, which has more gun control, you need an "act of God" to get a weapon.

In Milo, "there's guns everywhere" but that's part of the culture, he said.

Pickel doesn't think that politics are driving people to seek permits in his town.

"There's this push that people are worried about weapon bans and ammunition bans and magazine bans and all that, but I don't necessarily see a correlation to that in my town," Pickel said.

Trahan, of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, said he talks to many people with permits. He said some carry a lot of money, or have been threatened and assaulted. Some are retired law enforcement officers, fearing run-ins with people from their past.

Michaud, Fort Kent's police chief, said while residents' urgency surrounding requests has changed, their reasons haven't: it's mostly tradition. Many work in the woods or trap and hunt.

"It's all people who have always had guns but have never had a concealed-weapons permit," he said.

In Augusta, it's different, said Police Chief Robert Gregoire, who thinks the increase in requests stems from an increase in crime.

The Maine Department of Public Safety said crime was up 5 percent in Maine in 2011, while it dropped nationwide. And last year, Augusta had nine pharmacy robberies, the most in any Maine municipality.

"I don't think it really has anything to do with a presidential election," Gregoire said. "We see a lot more things in the news and read a lot more things in the paper than we ever have."

Vern Malloch, assistant police chief in Portland, sees it differently. He issued 156 concealed-weapons permits in 2011 and 209 in 2012. He said he couldn't guess why the increase happened.

He said some people may feel more unsafe than ever, but long-term, crime isn't an increasing problem in Maine.

"If people are feeling less safe, I think it would have to be a result of other factors," he said.

People in Maine who hold concealed-weapons permits aren't dangerous, many said. Each one must pass a safety course, answer 32 questions about their criminal background and mental health, release existing mental health records and go through a background check.

Michaud, in Fort Kent, called them "the good guys."

He said he has rejected one applicant, and he has been chief since 1977. That man shot himself in the foot to get out of the military and was "a little psychotic," the chief said.

Ireland, with the state police, said he rejects people regularly, but the percentage is in the single digits.

The Violence Policy Center, a national gun-control group, tracks the number of murders committed by concealed-weapons permit holders nationwide, dating back to May 2007.

It contends that concealed-weapons carriers are more dangerous than the average citizen, saying 499 people have been killed by carriers nationwide since May 2007.

Schwartz, director of the police chief's association, said he hasn't heard of crimes involving concealed-weapons carriers in Maine, and the Violence Policy Center hasn't counted any murders by any in Maine since 2007.

"My memory bank goes back way before that," said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. "I can't recall one."

 

Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

 

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