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Catawba County gun-purchase permits and concealed-carry applications decreased in 2010 after hitting a 10-year high in 2009.
The Catawba County Sheriff's Office reported 2,781 gun-purchase permits in 2010, which represents an 18 percent decline since permits spiked at 3,413 in 2009. The sheriff's office also reported a 29 percent decrease in concealed-carry applications from 2009 to 2010.
Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said he noticed an increased interest in purchasing and carrying guns since the 2008 presidential election. That observation was confirmed in sheriff's office data, which revealed more than 3,000 purchase permits were issued in both 2008 and 2009. Those figures represent a more than 39 percent increase from 2007 data.
Springs Road Gun Club owner and president Jack Simons also reported an increased interest in firearms and people learning how to use them.
"More and more people are concerned with how things are going in the economy," Simons said, adding that those economic uncertainties often leave people wanting a way to protect themselves.
Simons is a North Carolina handgun instructor, a NRA home firearms safety instructor and a certified gunsmith, among many other weapon certifications. He passes those skills to others at gun-safety classes and as a certified instructor.
Simons recommends everyone take basic gun safety classes, but that's not required before purchasing or using a gun.
"That's kind of one of the negative things about firearms," he said.
According to the Catawba County website, handgun purchase is allowed "for the purposes of home protection, gun collections and target practice." People who want to purchase a gun must first be issued a permit by the sheriff's office.
Residents applying for a purchase permit must submit a valid photo ID and pass a background check, which can take about a week to process.
Residents wanting to apply for a concealed-carry permit must fill out a physical and mental health release form, successfully complete a gun safety course, be fingerprinted and undergo a background check.
A new concealed-carry permit application can take more than a month to process, depending on the load of applications at the sheriff's office and the application processing center in Raleigh.
Some organizations, however, worry that guns are responsible for too many deaths in North Carolina each year.
According to North Carolinians against Gun Violence, more than 1,000 state residents die a year from gun violence.
The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence reported 198 people were shot Thursday in the United States, bringing the 2011 total to 10,921.
Simons said people must be aware of proper gun-safety techniques before they handle a firearm.
He advised people always to treat a gun as if it's loaded, which means pointing it in a safe direction and keeping a finger off the trigger until completely ready to fire.
The Springs Road Gun Club has about 7,000 users in its database, and they come from all walks of life.
Simons said politicians, clergy members, parents and their children come into the shooting range to practice handling and shooting firearms.
"Cars are designed for driving," he said, "But in the hands of the wrong person, they can be deadly."
For more information about Catawba County's gun policies and procedures, visit www.catawbacountync.gov/depts/shf/concealed.asp.