After a record year in 2008, the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office continues to see high interest from people who want to legally carry concealed firearms.

After a record year in 2008, the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office continues to see high interest from people who want to legally carry concealed firearms.

Bolstered by 685 concealed-carry permit renewals in 2008, the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office last year issued an office record 1,329 concealed carry weapons (CCW) licenses.

Through the first three and a half months of 2009, the trend shows no signs of slowing. According to the office, 401 CCW licenses -- including 69 renewals -- were issued from Jan. 1 to March 13.

Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen can't definitively say what's driving local residents and those from adjacent counties to seek the licenses and the state-mandated training that's required to obtain them. He suspects, however, it's motivated by politics, because, he said, many in the largely Republican-based region are nervous over what shape gun laws could take under a Democrat-led Congress and White House.

"I think there's concern within our community that people may lose rights to carry concealed firearms," Phalen said. "There's also been an increase in the purchase of guns at local gun stores -- a significant increase."

In Ohio, residents were given the right to obtain CCW permits in 2004. That year in Fairfield County, 925 people applied and all but 12 were granted permits.

The office issued permits to 462 individuals in 2005, and 416 and 458 in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

By law, the permits issued in 2004 required renewals last year. A subsequent law has extended CCW permits to five years.

According to the sheriff's office, approximately 30 percent of all applications it's received since 2004 have come from people living outside Fairfield County. Approximately 40 percent have come from females.

Because state law provides permit holder confidentiality, ThisWeek couldn't determine how many CCW licenses have been issued to Pickerington or Violet Township residents.

In Ohio, 33,864 permits were issued in 2008, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. It was the second-highest total since 45,497 were issued in the law's inaugural year.

Conversely, 157 licenses were revoked last year, which was the second-highest total since 2006, when 194 licenses were revoked statewide. The Ohio Attorney General's Office reported that 465 applications were denied in Ohio last year, the highest total since the CCW program was initiated.