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Computer glitches stall Westmoreland gun permit requests

| Tuesday, May 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Applications for concealed weapon permits so far this year in Westmoreland County are on pace to beat a record set in 2012, according to Sheriff Jon Held.

About 6,550 applications have been received through the first five months at Held's courthouse office, compared with 4,842 applications during the same period in 2012, Held said.

State officials hope $1.2 million in improvements to the Pennsylvania Instant Check computer system will eliminate delays in approving concealed weapon license applications that have occurred across the state.

The improvements are to be tested in June and implemented in October.

Applications for concealed weapons permits jumped significantly after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre in which 20 children and six adults were killed on Dec. 14.

At the same time, the state's system routinely faced technical glitches, causing a backlog of applications.

Statewide, from January through April, the system received about 400,000 calls, compared with 1 million in all of 2012, said Capt. Scott Price, director of the state police operational records division in Harrisburg.

At that pace, Price said, the state is on its way to a record year.

Held said the computer system has been working well and the county's backlog has diminished.

In 2012, 12,600 applications for concealed weapons permits passed through the county office. Held said the county is on pace to process 16,000 applications in 2013.

Allegheny County has had a similar increase in applications.

From January to April 2012, the county issued 6,500 licenses. In the same time period this year, 8,751 licenses were issued, Sheriff William Mullen said.

He hired an extra staff member to help process applications, installed an additional phone line and allowed his staff to work overtime, all to address the backlog. While the department is chipping away at requests, hundreds more keep applying, Mullen said.

“We're overwhelmed. ... We're catching up. We should be caught up shortly,” Mullen said.

In Fayette County, applicants wait only about 20 minutes to receive a permit, said Security Officer Gerry Thomas, who works in the sheriff's firearms division.

Staff writer Christina Gallagher contributed. Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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