CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Shooting ranges in Charlotte are busier than ever, and so is the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office as more people apply for concealed handgun permits.
“There was a lot of people in there I was very surprised,” Mecklenburg County resident Leia Haley said.
Haley is a single mom and she has never owned a gun before - but says it’s time.
“Charlotte is on the high rise of a lot of murders and burglaries... just protecting me and my kids because it’s just four of us,” she said.
She turned in an application and eventually wants to concealed carry.
“Starting to go to the gun range because it’s not gonna help to have a gun and not know how to shoot,” she said.
Blackstone Shooting Sports offers the 8-hour concealed carry class.
“The instruction portion of that goes over self-defense laws and NC concealed carry laws," Blackstone Shooting Sports manager Taylor Burke said. "After that, there is the brief live-fire session qualification.”
If you pass the course, you can apply for a permit online and head to the sheriff’s office for fingerprinting.
“We take forms and send them to five hospitals to check for mental and substance abuse and to the clerk of courts judicial hospitalization unit," Mecklenburg County Public Information Officer Tonya Rivens said.
They're fully staffed to handle the high demand.
By the end of 2005, there were 5,472 active concealed handgun permits in Mecklenburg County. That number jumped to 14,629 permits by the end of 2010, and then to 38,002 by the end of 2018.
Experts say it comes down to a sense of security.
“Safety is paramount,” Burke said.
The people applying agree.
“You don’t want to be like a sitting duck," Haley said. "At least put up some type of fight.”
The sheriff’s office has 45 days after they receive the screening paperwork back from the hospital to get an applicant their permit. They also offer their computers to anyone who does not have internet access to apply at home.