The Sandy Hook killings in Connecticut have reignited the gun control debate, but one look at the line of people waiting Monday for concealed carry weapons permits would show that more people are looking to getting guns for personal safety.
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws, and more than half say the Newtown tragedy reflects broader problems in our society. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she'll introduce legislation banning assault weapons.
The shooting of innocent children in an elementary school has done something else; it's also pushed some local gun owners off the fence and into gun-carry territory. It can be expensive and time consuming to get a concealed carry permit, but the number of armed people in our community is steadily growing.
At the Public Safety Building in Spokane Monday, in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn. last week, there was a much larger-than-normal line for people who want permits.
At one point Monday morning, more than two dozen people were waiting for their permits. It's senior volunteer Dan Thomas' job to make sure applicants get through the line as quickly as possible.
"A year and a half ago, when I first started, we were doing 40 to 50 applications per day, and it's up to 90 to a hundred now. So it's doubled," Thomas said.
The people in line Monday were not angry as much as they are anxious about spontaneous, unprovoked violence. The opinion among the CCW applicants was they felt that without a cop on every corner, the duty of protecting their family falls on their shoulders.
"The way we feel is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," Jim Sawyer said.
Sawyer was among those waiting in line to get a permit Monday.
Because he's not been convicted of a felony or had mental health problems, Sawyer is about to become one of the 28,000 Spokane County residents with a concealed weapons permit.
"I'd be glad to know that somebody's got my back, that I'm not going to be the only one with the concealed weapons permit. Look at the line today," he said.
Each of the applicants handed over $52 to get fingerprinted and have their backgrounds checked. Karen Sawyer says it's an investment in her grandchildren's safety now that even first-graders are potential targets.
"I'm also a mental health counselor, so I understand mental health issues, and we don't have enough resources financially or enough counselors to deal with mental health issues," she said.
The people in line for their permits Monday who were interviewed for this story said that anyone who elects to carry around a concealed weapon owes it to their family to have the proper training and equipment. Experts warn carrying around a gun is an awesome responsibility, and there are no do-overs when bullets are involved.