McDuffie County saw a surge in applications for concealed carry permits in 2020. The probate court issues Georgia Weapons Carry Licenses and in 2019 received 478 applications. In 2020, the office received 857 applications, according to Judge Valerie Burley. During that calendar year, 817 were completed and an additional 40 were submitted and were still being processed at the end of the year but will count in the 2020 tally. Burley said those have been sent away but have not returned by mail yet. She said with the holidays the printing schedule was behind for the cards. Although she an her staff do not ask everyone why they apply, she did notice some things. “We’ve just had a lot of violence, a lot of crime, and with all the stuff going on the in the world it just makes people feel like they just need to try to protect themselves,” said Burley. “We’ve had more elderly people to apply than we’ve ever had before, and people that live alone. And then we had a lot of young people that have applied. When they turn 21 they’re in here applying for a permit.”
She said she thinks the increase is not just McDuffie County. The judge noticed something else unique about 2020. “We haven’t had to revoke any,” Burley said. She said individuals convicted of a felony will be told by superior court to surrender their license. Also, anyone named in a temporary protective order also has to surrender their license for the duration of the order. “I didn’t get any from the superior court judges in 2020,” Burley said. Usually she has one or two annally that have to surrender a license due to conviction on a felony. The high demand for carry permits seems to continue into early 2021. Burley said through last the first seven days of January. Carolyn Ramsey, of Thomson, was one of those who applied for a carry permit the first week of January. “My son had been talking to me for a minute. My best friend had been talking to me for a minute. So, I just decided that I would also get one,” Ramsey said. She said he has purchased her first gun ever, and plans to go shooting sometime soon. “I would encourage everybody to take some type of firearms class,” said Thomson Interim Police Chief E.J. Bess. “You might have been born and raised around guns all your life, but it’s okay to get a professionals input on it. Know the local laws and the safety measures and things of that nature. We’re all about people having guns and gun rights, but it’s all about responsible gun ownership.” If stopped by an officer and you are carrying concealed Bess said first you should understand that you don’t want to grab or touch your gun in front of them. He said if the interaction involves possible physical contact, such as if you are asked to step out of the car and may be checked for weapons, it is good to inform the officer you have a permit and are carrying a firearm. “It’s better to let somebody know ‘I do have a permit and I do have my gun on me’,” he said. “Keep your hands away from your gun so legitimate actions won’t be confused with something illegitimate.” Bess points out how even though he has instructed others on firearms as part of his career he still receives trainings from other professionals and suggest the same for everyday civilians that carry.