Since Missouri passed a law allowing qualified people to carry concealed handguns eight years ago, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has issued more than 4,000 permits to citizens, Sheriff Gary Toelke said.

The exact number of permits to date is 4,173, but that will increase as recent permit applications are processed, Toelke said.

“We always see a spike in applications around Christmas when people buy handguns as gifts,” the sheriff said.

Toelke said the recent increase in handgun sales and conceal/carry permits typically is fueled by a fear that new gun regulations will be passed.

After the Dec. 14 mass killings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Toelke said his office was getting an average of 10 calls per day for information about obtaining conceal/carry permits.

Toelke noted that since August 2007, citizens have not had to obtain a permit from the sheriff to acquire and possess a handgun.

Qualified individuals buying weapons from a dealer are required to fill out a federal 4473 form and undergo a background check conducted by the dealer, the sheriff noted.

However, by law they can’t possess a weapon if they are a convicted felon, are currently under an order of protection involving accusations of violence or have a misdemeanor conviction involving domestic violence, Toelke explained.

Multiple Purchases

If a person buys more than one handgun from a dealer they must fill out a report for the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A copy of that report is filed with the local sheriff’s office.

Toelke said in the 20-day period from Dec. 1 through Dec. 21, there were nine such multiple purchase forms filed with his office for 19 handguns sold. From Dec. 21 through Dec. 26, there were 12 multiple purchases reported for the sale of 28 handguns.

Suspended Sentences

Toelke explained that a person who is given a suspended imposition sentence (s.i.s.) in a felony case and successfully completes a term of probation no longer has a felony conviction. However, under the law, a person with an s.i.s. is “not eligible” to apply for a conceals/carry permit, Toelke stressed.

“The fact that they plead guilty to a crime, as outlined as a restriction in the conceal/carry law, remains part of the record that is accessible to law enforcement,” Toelke said.

Since the department began issuing conceal/carry permits, 64 applicants were denied, most because they had an s.i.s. in a previous felony case, Toelke noted.

“Most people feel that since they no longer have a conviction they are eligible to apply,” Toelke said. That is not the case, however.

Toelke said to date, seven people who were denied permits challenged his decision in court, but none were successful in their lawsuits.

Over the last eight years, Toelke said one owner’s permit was suspended and 16 others were revoked. Those 16 revocations did not involve issues related to carrying concealed weapons, the sheriff noted.