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7 percent in Allegheny County allowed to carry concealed gun

| Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, 11:06 p.m.
Nearly 7 percent of Allegheny County’s 1.2 million residents have active permits to carry concealed handguns, said Chief Deputy Kevin Kraus with the sheriff’s department.

About one in 15 people in Allegheny County could be packing heat, and you wouldn't know it.

Nearly 7 percent of the county's 1.2 million residents have active permits to carry concealed handguns, said Chief Deputy Kevin Kraus with the sheriff's department.

That doesn't mean they all are carrying.

Sam Rosenberg, president of INPAX Academy of Personal Protection and Self Defense, which runs training courses in Sewickley, North Versailles and Warrendale, said many people obtain permits out of concern for personal safety but don't carry weapons right away.

“Overwhelmingly, the majority of the people that I see and that I encounter don't carry a firearm until they feel trained to do so,” Rosenberg said. “Most of the people who get permits aren't going to carry, and most of the ones who do carry are extremely cautious.”

Allegheny County has 79,947 active concealed pistol permits.

By comparison, about 15 percent of Westmoreland County's 359,320 residents have active permits. Permits are valid for five years.

Rosenberg offers courses for people with concealed handgun permits even though the state does not require training to obtain the license. John Brown, founder of 3 Rivers Tactical Training Solutions in Aliquippa, has offered such training since 2011.

“I was shocked at how little your average civilian knows about how to properly carry a concealed handgun,” Brown said. “Most people out there just don't know what they are doing.”

Brown and Rosenberg teach handgun basics — how to aim, fire and clean a gun — and offer tactical training such as how to identify threats, defuse threats without a gun and how to draw and fire a gun in situations such as while sitting or in a car. They give legal briefings, including what is considered deadly force in Pennsylvania and what is self-defense, and where people can and can't carry concealed weapons.

An October Gallup poll found that 56 percent of Americans believe more Americans carrying concealed weapons — after passing criminal background checks and receiving training — would make the country safer.

A recent ranking from City-data.com, using census data, found that Armstrong County ranks fourth in the nation in the percentage of homes reporting gun ownership, with nearly 58 percent.

Demand for concealed carry permits surged at Western Pennsylvania sheriff's offices in the days after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Sheriffs in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties more than doubled their daily averages. Allegheny County has issued 15,982 permits this year; Westmoreland County, 9,573.

People must be 21 to apply for a gun permit in Pennsylvania. They must pass a state police background check; cannot have a conviction for any of 38 crimes, including murder, stalking and corruption of minors; and cannot have an open court case or a closed case in which they owe money.

Sheriffs can deny a permit if the applicant presents a danger to public safety; has a drug conviction; is mentally ill or has been committed to a mental institution; or has been in prison for more than a year. Other reasons: The person is not a Pennsylvania resident, does not have a permit from another state, is a fugitive, was dishonorably discharged from the military or is in the country illegally.

If a permit is denied through the state police background check, an applicant can appeal to the state police. If the sheriff denies a permit, applicants can appeal to Common Pleas Court.

The sheriff's office can revoke a permit if the person commits a crime. Westmoreland County has revoked 364 permits this year; no one has appealed a revocation in recent years. Allegheny County has denied 852 permits and revoked 97. One or two people appeal each week, Kraus said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com. Staff writer Paul Peirce contributed.

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