I got a call the other day from a man I will only identify as a retired firefighter, and he had a problem.
Hes a steady guy, he said. Hes been married for decades and lived in the same house for decades and for decades hes had a gun permit.
Last October he filed paperwork to renew his gun permit, a process that always took three to four weeks to complete. He mailed a money order to one place and went to the sheriffs department to have his fingerprints taken and pay another fee, then he sat back and waited.
Now, seven months and seven days later, he still hasnt received his gun permit. He called me to ask what was going on and whether I could do anything.
Well, I dont issue gun permits, so I couldnt help him, other than sending a computer link so he could inquire electronically about his application.
But the man did raise an interesting point. Whats going on with gun permits?
I spoke to 1st Sgt. Brian Olehy at the Indiana State Police Firearms Licensing Section, who said there has been a spike in gun permit applications in the last eight to 12 months.
Such jumps in applications for permits happen from time to time. When Barack Obama was first elected president, there was a jump in gun sales attributed in news reports to fears that the new administration would try to tighten gun controls. Some gun shops actually sported photos of the president with the words Worlds Greatest Gun Salesman.
Olehy said the recent increase in gun permit applications was fairly large and attributed it to recent events.
When there is a discussion of an increase in gun control, you see an increase in gun permit applications, he said.
The result is a significant increase in the time it takes to get a permit. Currently, the ISP says, the wait for a permit can be up to 18 weeks.
Olehy couldnt say how many people do the checking necessary to approve or deny a permit, and he couldnt say how long it takes to process a single permit application. If your name is Hieronymus Bosch it wont take that long to do a background check, but if its Jim Johnson, youve got to slog through a lot of different files to run an accurate check.
When the number of applications increases, the ISP cant cut corners to process the applications, and it makes no sense to add staff because you cant just bring people in off the street and train them in a day, Olehy said. Besides, when the rush subsides, the department would end up with more employees than it needs.
We can get an idea how many applications have been submitted.
As of July 2010, 323,950 people had gun permits in the state of Indiana. By the fourth quarter of 2012, 449,025 people had permits, an increase of nearly 39 percent.
As of the first quarter of 2013, 466,275 people had permits, an increase of 17,250 in just three months. Thats more than 1,400 permits issued a week.
The ISP is trying to get more people to apply for permits online, including submitting fingerprints electronically through a company called MorphoTrust, which has two offices in Fort Wayne and offices in most surrounding counties. Its more efficient than using paper fingerprint files and eliminates human error, such as misplacing or losing paper documents, Olehy said.
Submitting paper fingerprint records can significantly increase the time it takes to process a permit application, Olehy said.
Thats how our firefighter submitted his fingerprints, so maybe thats part of the explanation.