- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 12, 2008

RICHMOND Doug and Cheryl Camden were raised around guns but agreed not to keep them in their house after they got married and began raising five children of their own.

Then violent crime began to dominate daily news reports. Several businesses near their Chester, Va., restaurant were robbed, home invasions seemed to increase and the world just seemed to be getting much more dangerous.

“It’s to the point where you can’t walk through the park without getting attacked,” Mr. Camden said.

So the Camdens are following the path taken by a sharply increasing number of Virginians: They’re applying for concealed weapons permits so they can begin carrying a gun for self-protection.

Virginia Supreme Court statistics show that nearly 44,000 people applied for permits in 2007, an increase of more than 60 percent over the previous year. Applicants don’t have to state a reason for seeking a permit.

Jack Kenny, a salesman at Bob Moates Sport Shop in suburban Richmond, said most handgun buyers say they fear for their safety. Some are afraid of home invasions while others want to carry a gun in their car, he said.

Mr. Camden said he plans to carry his .38 special to work. He also rides a motorcycle and wants to be able to legally tuck the handgun away in a duffel bag for his pleasure trips into the mountains.

His wife was the one who suggested that with most of their children now grown, it was time for the couple to arm themselves.

“There are a lot of times with him working at the restaurant that I’m by myself at home for several hours at night,” Mrs. Camden said. “It’s frightening to be a woman in today’s society, it really is.”

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, suggested last year’s Virginia Tech shootings are partly responsible for the sharp increase in concealed weapons permit applications. That incident and other mass murders show that “police can’t and probably won’t be there if you need them in a really tight emergency, where seconds make the difference between dying and living,” Mr. Van Cleave said.

Although reasons for obtaining a permit are somewhat varied, a common thread seems to be self-protection in an increasingly violent society.

Joel Kliesen, manager of Dominion Shooting Range in Richmond, said Dominion has had to increase its training courses to accommodate demand. According to state law, permit applicants must prove they have received safety training. They also must be 21, pass a criminal-background check and certify that they are not subject to a restraining order or addicted to a controlled substance.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 1995 that eliminated most judicial discretion in approving or denying applicants. Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said that was a mistake.

“It’s hard to understand why reasonable people wouldn’t support allowing police or judges to say we don’t think it’s a good idea for you to carry a gun around if someone has been threatening a spouse, for instance,” Mr. Hamm said.

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