Driving Demand for Personal Protection

Every year, thousands of Harris County residents apply for concealed handgun licenses or CHLs, with more and more applications being filed since the Newtown shooting three months ago.

At the Arms Room in League City, concealed handgun license instructor Tom Estep peers out from underneath his camo cap. A fresh class of CHL applicant lines up and takes aim.

“I’m seeing a lot of people coming in saying they weren’t interested in getting a license until we came up on what looks like a crisis to them.”

Brain Mobley handles firearm training at the Arms Room from his quiet office facing the range’s thick concrete walls.

“We’ve had a definite uptick for a couple of months due to media sensationalism.”

Looking at the Department of Public Safety’s latest numbers, Harris County currently has 90,000 active licenses — the most in the state. Surrounding counties like Galveston, where the Arms Room is, or Montgomery have more licenses per capita than Harris.

Last year, the department issued more than 21,000 licenses to Harris County residents; that’s actually a five percent drop compared to 2011’s numbers.

DPS spokesperson Tom Vinger says that those 2012 numbers don’t reflect the increased demand since December 15, the day after the Sandy Hook school shooting.

“The increase in CHL applications that started in mid-December, most of that will probably be reflected in the 2013 numbers. Especially since the increase in applications has continued through the first of the year.”

An online application, Vinger adds, only begins the process.

“It’s just a way to take a snapshot of something that’s happening at that moment in time. It doesn’t provide a great deal of context. But the online applications are immediate.”

Back at the Arms Room in League City, CHL instructor Brian Mobley says those online applications are fueled by uncertainty over new legislation.

“I think that I’m not the only one who shares that opinion, as attested to the classroom participation. We’ve had a lot more students coming in, and I feel that they feel the same way.”