A record number of Ohioans were issued concealed-handgun licenses in 2016, and local gun shops have seen a spike in sales to match the permit trend.
According to a report issued March 1 by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office, counties across the state issued 158,982 regular licenses in 2016, eclipsing the previous record of 145,342 set in 2013.
Of those in 2016, 117,953 were new licenses, dwarfing the figure of 71,589 from 2015 and the previous record of 96,972 in 2013. The licenses must be renewed every five years.
For Gregg Scott, owner of firearms and ammunition seller The Trigger Group in Worthington, the uptick made perfect sense because it was related to another fear.Video • Gregg Scott, owner of The Trigger Group, discusses the uptick in gun sales and concealed-carry permits in 2016.
As one Democratic president left office, he said, gun owners already were worried another would change what weapons they could or could not purchase.
"(Barack Obama) was the best gun salesman in the history of the United States," Scott said with a laugh. "I think the biggest drive was the fear that if a Democrat got elected, they would take away our gun rights."
Joe Reamsnyder manages Velocity Works, a firearms sales and trade shop in Westerville. He agreed with Scott's assessment and said he has seen "a lot of new gun owners emerging" since last year's election season.
Velocity Works also offers concealed-carry training classes, and he saw a definite surge toward the end of last year.
"A lot of people interested in buying guns and some who were already gun owners were fearing Hillary (Clinton) would get elected and pass pretty rigorous gun-control measures," he said. "It was kind of a 'get-it-while-you-can' mentality."
Ohio residents may be issued a concealed-carry license from any contiguous county to their county of residence, meaning that Franklin County residents also are eligible in Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, Pickaway and Union counties.
In those seven counties alone, 17,441 permits were issued in 2016. Franklin County's 7,569 permits issued in 2016 were the highest in the state, which the sheriff's office called another record number.
The increased interest in concealed-carry licenses has meant more sales of a specific type of gun, Reamsnyder said. Most popular manufacturers make compact versions of handguns that are designed for concealment.
Reamsnyder said he usually can tell when someone new comes in to purchase a firearm meant for concealed carry, and he has seen plenty of guns leave the shop in the last year.
"People can find a way to conceal a bazooka if they want to; there's no hard definition (of a concealed-carry firearm)," he said. "But there are guns that seem designed with concealed carry in mind."
And although the wave of purchases might have been temporary, both Reamsnyder and Scott believe many first-time buyers will become return customers.
"A lot of people were afraid of (guns)," Scott said. "They didn't know much about them, but figured they'd get one before their rights were terminated. ... Now they're finding out that they enjoy them."
For Reamsnyder, that phenomenon is nothing new.
"We call it 'the sickness,' " he said with a laugh. "Once you've bought your first gun, I can almost guarantee it won't be your last. It becomes an expensive hobby."