More and more people continue to settle down in Delaware County -- and increasingly, those people want to carry guns.

The county -- along with the state of Ohio -- doled out concealed-carry permits in record numbers in 2016.

Officials issued just shy of 118,000 new concealed-carry permits statewide in 2016 compared with about 71,600 in 2015 -- an increase of about 65 percent. About 41,000 residents renewed their licenses last year.

The Delaware County Sheriff's Office issued nearly 2,000 new concealed-carry permits in 2016 compared with about 980 in 2015 -- an increase greater than 100 percent. About 820 Delaware County residents renewed their licenses last year.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Tracy Whited said the shattered record in Delaware County was the result of public interest, as well as steps taken by the department.

The sheriff's office added a part-time employee and extended hours for permit appointments last year. Whited said adding another part-time concealed-carry specialist "basically doubled" opportunities for residents to schedule an appointment.

The sheriff's office in 2014 also debuted an online scheduling system for residents seeking to obtain or renew permits. Whited said she thinks the system has improved the efficiency of the process, resulting in more licenses being issued.

"It just makes it easier than trying to get ahold of a person," she said.

The increased interest among county residents in carrying firearms has not just kept sheriff's office staff members busy. David Jackson, training manager at Black Wing Shooting Center in Scioto Township, said his concealed-carry classes are booked for weeks.

Jackson said he thought the political uncertainty of a presidential-election year led more people to seek permits last year. He said to his surprise, the center's classes and ranges remained packed after the election.

Jackson said many new clients cite recent mass shootings and terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. as a reason for seeking firearm instruction.

"The message I'm getting is: They want to feel safe," he said.

Jackson said the center's clientele also is becoming more diverse -- with more women and older senior citizens. He said he recently taught two students who were in their 80s.

"These are a lot of people who have never considered having a gun before," he said.

Jackson said increased interest has led to expansion plans at the center, which sits just west of Delaware off U.S. Route 36. A third range could open at the site by the end of the year.

"I'm feeling quite safe in my job at the moment," Jackson said.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick