More citizens "packing heat"

Lawton_More and more "average" citizens are "packing heat" these days.  A concealed carry permit allows a person to carry a firearm, and many say it makes them feel safer.  They say that with a concealed weapon they'll be able to defend themselves if approached by a criminal.

The Comanche County Sheriff's Department says as many as 18 people in one day have applied for a concealed weapons permit.  Beverly Crosby does the permit processing at the sheriff's department and says there has been an obvious increase in the two years that she has worked there.  She also says it's a diverse group of people who apply for the permit.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is running out of fingerprinting sheets as well.  Those applying for the permit are interested in protecting themselves, and it's a pretty simple process, too.  The application process begins with completing a form, picked up at the sheriff's department or online.  "Your certificate, your photos, your money, fill out your application as best you can, and then you'll be able to come down and visit us, and we'll process you at that time," says Crosby.

Matt Lewis was going through the process on Wednesday and says that having a concealed weapon will make him feel safe in what could be dangerous neighborhoods.  "You know, if you get into a position, and somebody comes up to you, you know they're probably going to have one [a weapon] whether legal or not legal," he says.  He says he believes carrying a concealed weapon will put him on equal ground if confronted by a criminal.

Aside from the application, you also will be required to take a firearms safety course - including classroom instruction and range firing.  Concealed weapons carriers say that everyone should have the ability to defend themselves, and some studies show that areas with more concealed carry permits have lower crime rates because it makes criminals think twice.

The sheriff's department processes all manner of applicants, from single women to married couples, to people who travel a lot to people in the military.  To obtain a permit, you must be 21 years old and a resident of the state in which you are applying.  Authorities stress that guns should only be used as a last resort.