It's no secret that the sales of firearms and ammunition have skyrocketed since the mass murder Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and subsequent talk of tighter gun control.
So have applications for gun carry permits, at least in the Chattahoochee Valley. Compared to December 2011, permit applications for December 2012 nearly tripled in Harris County (from 49 to 145 applications) and increased by 78 percent in Muscogee County (from 118 to 210) and 9 percent in Russell County (from 395 to 431), according to county officials.
And the trend is continuing.
In Alabama, sheriffs handle carry permit applications, and in Georgia it's done by the probate courts. Russell County is currently receiving 30-40 carry permit applications a day, according to Sheriff Heath Taylor. Muscogee County is on track to process more applications in January than in any month in memory, and possibly ever, according to Probate Court Judge Marc D'Antonio.
But apparently, the recent spike in permit applications has less to do with the Sandy Hook shootings and more to do with President Barak Obama's re-election.
Gun control concerns
Permit applications in the Chattahoochee Valley spiked even higher after Obama was first elected, in 2008.
Compared to December 2007, permit applications for December 2008 more than tripled in Harris County (from 31 to 99 applications), more than doubled in Muscogee County (from 98 to 230) and increased by 92 percent in Russell County (from 150 to 288), with no tragedy such as Sandy Hook in the news.
In contrast, December permit applications in Muscogee County dropped when President George W. Bush was elected in 2000 (from 62 applications in 1999 to 36), and they dropped again when he was re-elected in 2004 (from 59 applications in 2003 to 38).
"I think it's concern not just over the school shooting," Taylor said. "I think it's concern over the federal government potentially taking away this, that and the other when it comes to firearms.
"I don't know that that's actually going to occur, but whenever (Obama) starts talking about that, you're going to see a spike in people's permits. Because it scares them."
D'Antonio agrees that concern over gun control, whether it's actually warranted or not, is driving the increase in applications.
"Whether true or not, people believe there might be restrictions on concealed weapons carry permits when you have a Democratic president," D'Antonio said. "But since carry permit laws are determined by the Georgia legislature, I don't think anyone has anything to worry about."
D'Antonio said state legislatures must operate within federal guidelines when it comes to firearm laws, but that the Georgia General Assembly tends to lean toward the lenient end of the spectrum.
A matter of trust
Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry, a gun rights advocacy organization based in Fairburn, Ga., said distrust of the Democratic Party in general, and President Obama specifically, drives the gun and permit activity.
"I think what was driving the increase in 2008 was the fact that everybody felt like President Obama would want to ban guns," he said. "What's driving it now is that's what they're saying they want to do.
"Right after Sandy Hook, that was the first thing they said. Before the bodies were even cold, they said they were going to come after people's guns."
Tom Dolan, political science professor at Columbus State University, said the specter of a Democratic president is obviously involved, but so is an inherent distrust of government among many people.
"A lot of people really fear the government," he said. "When President Obama was first elected, there was a lot of fear among people who were already insecure that having a Democrat as president meant that he was going to suspend the Second Amendment and take away everybody's guns.
"Well, President Obama didn't do anything about that. But when he was up for reelection, people who I guess had been disappointed by his lack of action to get their guns, say, 'Well, he's waiting for a second term to do it.'"
Speaking to Vice President Joe Biden's recent suggestion that Obama could issue an executive order concerning gun control, Dolan said such orders carry a great deal of power, but they're not absolute.
Presidents have used executive orders to execute the Louisiana Purchase, fund and carry out the Manhattan Project, and initiate affirmative action, as well as imprison Japanese-American citizens at the beginning of World War II, which was eventually found to be a violation of the Bill of Rights.
Still, Congress has the authority to overturn such orders, he said.
"Executive orders have a great deal of power," Dolan said. "So, unless Congress acts to undo them or the president sees fit to undo it, a lot of damage can be done in the short term."