Gun permit application process bogs down in Westmoreland
April Mueseler said she was surprised to find a line of people waiting for firearms carry permits at the Westmoreland County Sheriff's Office on Friday afternoon.
But nearly two hours after Mueseler, 29, and her husband, Justin, 35, arrived to apply for new permits, they were still waiting — and trying to keep their two young children occupied.
“We're just afraid the regulations were going to get harder,” April Mueseler of Sewickley Township said of recent talk about gun control. “We've been talking about it and hadn't made the time to do it until now.”
The number of license-to-carry permits issued in Westmoreland County are up by nearly 4,300 over last year — with 12,507 permits issued as of the end of business on Thursday.
Sheriff Jonathan Held said his office has been busy all year processing the carry permits, which typically increase in a presidential election year. But he has noticed two spikes in applications. The first came after the July movie theater shooting that left 10 people dead in Colorado, and the second spike came after this month's school shooting in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults died.
“I guess it's just the tenor in our society right now,” Held said.
During those spikes, the department averaged 150 permits a day — three times more than a normal day.
Long lines are not uncommon, Held said. And crashes or slowdowns of the background check system frequently have forced deputies to phone information into the state rather than use the online system.
Sometimes those checks have gone beyond the office's 4 p.m. closing time, and, in some cases, the office has mailed permits to people rather than have them wait if the system is bogged down, Held said.
Late Friday afternoon, about 30 people found whatever space they could to sit or stand to wait for an hour or two for their permits.
MaryAnne Shirey of Hempfield said she came to get a permit after hearing her husband nag her for years about it.
David Shirey, 70, who has had a permit since the 1970s, said he wanted his wife to carry a gun for protection.
“My philosophy is I'd rather have one and not need it, than need it and not have it,” he said.
MaryAnne Shirey said she decided it was time to get one, though no particular incident persuaded her.
Alan Ehrensberger of Latrobe said he'd been thinking about getting a carry permit for a while now, but the fear of new gun control laws after the Connecticut school shooting convinced him it was the right time.
“It motivates people more to do it now,” he said.
“You don't know what kind of laws they're going to pass,” said his wife, Carol Ehrensberger.
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.