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Published: Friday, 5/14/2004

Concealed weapon applicants hurry, wait

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Five weeks after Ohio gave its residents the right to carry concealed weapons, Lucas County residents are still waiting for their permits.

More than 350 have applied for their permits in Lucas County but still await their cards because the paperwork process is so time-consuming, according to sheriff's Lt. Greg Wojciechowski.

"We're taking between 25 and 30 a day," Lieutenant Wojciechowski said, referring to the number of applications. Before a wallet-size card is issued, the sheriff's office must conduct background checks of applicants. And if they lived in five different counties previously, for example, the sheriff's office must run a background check with local courts, law enforcement, and the probate court in each of those jurisdictions.

For some applicants, that means a dozen or more letters requesting background checks, the lieutenant said. Last week, a list of 80 names were sent to Lucas County Common Pleas Court to make sure the applicants had no history of mental illness, Lieutenant Wojciechowski said.

"We haven't received anything yet," he said. "The first card will be issued as soon as we get back the data."

Other applications are easier to process because applicants are long-time, local residents.

In neighboring Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties, 155 permits had been issued of the 572 applications by mid this week, officials there reported.

Still, they note the process is painfully slow, eating up both time and staff.

In Fulton County, at least four employees are helping process the applications, including two deputies, said Sheriff Darrell Merillat.

"Instead of having people in here, I have investigations I'd like them to be working," he said.

"I'd love to turn [the applications] out quicker, but it's just not possible," added Ottawa County Sheriff's Deputy Chuck Shuff, who this week was processing part of the three file cabinet drawers full of applications and paperwork.

Still, officials said processing the paperwork most likely will become quicker as it becomes more routine and the flood of applicants subsides. Additionally, applicants have been patient, officials in each of the four counties reported.

"Without any computer glitches, it's running fairly smoothly," said Deputy Lenny Vidra of Wood County, noting that it has taken some time to learn the new system.

Meanwhile, the debate over carrying concealed weapons continues more than a month after the law changed.

Ohioans for Concealed Carry, proponents of the law, has posted on its Web site the names of businesses around Ohio - from convenience stores to factories to the Toledo Zoo - that do not allow weapons on their premises. The Web site accuses the businesses of discriminating against permit holders and encourages readers to boycott those businesses until they change their policy.

It is making some business owners rethink the posting of signs about their no-firearms policy. "I was debating whether it was a good thing or a bad thing," conceded Bob Vandenburgh, owner Rider's Hobby Shop in West Toledo. "On one hand, obviously, I don't want to turn customers away, but if they're carrying a gun, maybe I don't care anyway."

He said the publicity most likely will force him to remove the sign.

Others, like those at the Toledo Zoo, remain steadfast.

"We don't look at it like the person who brings the weapon on grounds is going to be the problem," said zoo spokesman Andi Norman, noting that thousands of children visit the zoo each year.

"What happens if that gun is misplaced or is lost?" she asked.

Contact Robin Erb at:

robinerb@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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