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by Caroline Downs

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Thinking through concealed weapons . . .

Posted 10/22/13 (Tue)

Over 12,000.

That’s the number of concealed weapons license applications the state of North Dakota has processed so far this year.

In fact, the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation reported 12,338 applications received as of the end of September.

According to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s comments on Prairie Public Radio Tuesday morning, the demand has overwhelmed the state BCI. There’s a backlog of requests to the point his office published a statement on online to explain delays in the 60-day process.

Stenehjem said BCI is hiring additional employees just to focus on handling the applications and accepts assistance now from senior citizens who volunteer to fill and stuff envelopes for the bureau.

Compare those 12,338 applications so far to the 12,614 licenses processed for all of 2012, more than double the 5,634 applications handled in 2011.

That’s a lot of concealed weapons licenses issued across the state. A state which still has a relatively low, although growing, population.

As a gun owner and user, I will never argue with anyone’s constitutional right to bear arms. I grew up around guns and shoot them now both in sport and to rid my property of undesirable animals including skunks hiding in the barn, stray cats stalking my poultry, and rabbits behaving as though my flower beds are their personal salad bars.

I also live outside the city limits and shoot low-caliber firearms appropriate for my intentions, unless I’m deer hunting.

Then, I borrow the husband’s rifle and plant myself in a likely spot. For me, deer hunting involves a great deal of waiting and very little actual shooting.

I have not applied for a concealed weapons permit. I have no use for such a license or weapon.

Of course, a variety of people across North Dakota do, and I understand that.

I respect that.

I just don’t know if over 25,000 people across this state need to pack a hidden firearm around every day.

You may argue I’m oversimplifying the situation, but I don’t think so. According to data available on the North Dakota Attorney General’s website, 1,431 concealed weapons licenses, new and renewals, were issued during 2012 for Ward County residents alone.

That was the highest total recorded among the oil-producing counties since 2005 and second only to the 1,941 licenses issued in Burleigh County last year.

A concealed weapons permit is valid for five years in North Dakota, depending on revisions to the laws made by the state legislature, so the number of active licenses in Ward County through the end of 2012 was 4,071.

Plus the hundreds more processed since January.

Just how bad is the skunk problem in this county anyway?

Again, I do not question the right to possess such a license.

I do, however, question the purpose, and I ask everyone in this state who chooses to apply for a concealed weapons license to make his or her decisions very, very thoughtfully.

Consider the safety and security of the weapon, its accessibility to adults unfamiliar with firearms and to children, and the reasons for which the weapon is needed.

A firearm is certainly a useful tool, an amazing invention, and even a work of art.

Guns carry memories and stories through families. Goodness knows I’ve recorded a few of my own gun stories in this column.

The inherent purpose of any firearm, however, is to hit a target in a precise location. If the target is another living being, the purpose generally becomes to immobilize or end the life of that being.

I really, really hope the 25,000-plus concealed weapons permit holders across this state have a clear and precise understanding of those two sentences. Any errors or misconceptions in their thinking have permanent consequences.

Is your concealed weapons license worth that?