After going great guns for several years, applications among Butler County residents for what’s commonly known as a “gun permit” appear to be tapering off.

Sheriff Mike Slupe, who took office in January, said statistics for the first quarter of this year are the lowest they’ve been in the past five years.

Between Jan. 1 and April 6, 684 residents either renewed or received a license for the first time. The figures for the same period were 1,933 in 2009; 1,935 in 2008; 2,336 in 2007; and 889 in 2006.

Annual figures were 3,566 in 2009; 3,983 in 2008; 5,032 in 2007; and 2,253 in 2006. If this year’s first-quarter numbers continue at the same pace, the total for 2010 would be 2,052.

While it’s simple speculation, Sheriff Slupe said he believed two factors came together to boost carry permit applications among notably conservative, pro-gun Butler County: the presidential campaign in 2007 and speculation about the pending change in leadership of the county sheriff’s office.

“Gun rights are important to the people of Butler County. I think they were worried about what was going on with changes in Washington, D.C. — worried that the government was going to take their guns.

“And, at the same time, everyone in Butler County knew Sheriff [Denny] Rickard was pro-gun, and they felt comfortable with him. But when he said he was thinking of retiring, I think people weren’t sure what a new sheriff would do,” Mr. Slupe said.

In 2007, word spread that Sheriff Rickard, who had held office for three decades, was considering retirement. He announced in 2008 that he would leave office in 2009 at the end of his term.

Source: Karen Kane for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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