BY DAWSON BELL and GINA DAMRON
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
The number of Michiganders licensed to carry concealed weapons has reached 220,422 — nearly 10 years after the state liberalized its permit law and following a record number of CCW applicants in the 12 months from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009.
More than 92,000 of those with permits live in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
In the 12-month period, 73,000 applied for permits and 66,446 were approved, according to newly released Michigan State Police records. That’s nearly double the number from the previous 12 months, an increase largely due to permit renewals by people who got their CCW permits soon after the law took effect.
Still, nearly 1 in 35 Michigan adults is licensed to carry a concealed weapon.
Advocates said interest in gun ownership has been rising with the state’s economic anxiety and fears — mostly unfounded — that government may try to curtail gun ownership.
“People feel like getting a license sends a message to the politicians in Washington,” said Chesterfield Township firearms instructor Mary Polkowski. “They want to get a (CCW) permit because they have a right to.”
The manager of Target Sports in Royal Oak, who asked to be identified as Ray, said Thursday that enrollment in firearms training classes at the store has doubled since September 2008. He said much of the increase, like that registered in the sale of firearms and ammunition after the 2008 election, appeared to have been spurred by fears that President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress would curtail the sale and use of firearms.
Even though that hasn’t happened, fears remain, enthusiasts said.
State Police spokeswoman Melody Kindraka had a more prosaic explanation for the spike in CPL — often referred to as CCW — applications in the 12-month reporting period that ended June 30: Most were renewals.
A change in the permit law in 2001 prohibited gun boards from denying permits except for specific reasons, such as felony convictions and mental illness. That year, applications surged.
Kindraka said many of the permits issued soon after the law changed expired in 2008 and 2009.
Still, no one argues that interest in armed self-defense isn’t growing. The number of CPL holders is more than law enforcement officials predicted during the contentious debate over changing the law. Most estimates suggested 200,000 permits would satisfy demand in Michigan.
Polkowski, owner of the Ultimate Protection Academy in Macomb County, said interest in firearms and self-defense has intensified in the last 18 months. Part of the reason is related to the economy and fears about crime rising along with joblessness, she said. Part of it, she said, is a reaction to the Democratic Party’s control in the nation’s capital.
“People are concerned about their intentions in Washington,” Polkowski said.