Fatal irony: A gun calamity may have led to new gun permits

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Guns and paranoia seem to go together as much as guns and ammunition. Just as the presidency of Barack Obama boosted national gun sales amid fears that a new age of gun control might dawn — it didn’t — gun owners appear susceptible to any perceived threat. The evidence is as close to home as Allegheny County.

Sheriff Bill Mullen announced this week that his office issued 20,708 concealed-carry gun permits in 2013, a 31 percent increase over the previous year when 15,797 permits were issued.

To be sure, such permits are not receipts for gun purchases, but they are related to a central issue for supporters of the Second Amendment, the availability of guns for self-defense. Such permits are not needed for hunting rifles.

What led to the spike in demand? Sheriff Mullen notes that it came early in the year and may have been a response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six staff in Newtown, Conn.

Perhaps some seekers of permits thought they might be called upon to defend small children on a visit to a school but, even in a nation awash with guns, a law-abiding, armed citizen rarely seems to be at the right place at the right time.

More likely, those seeking permits realized that the shooting would lead to a new call for restrictions on gun purchases. It did — but with a Congress in hock to the National Rifle Association, the call to reason went nowhere.

What a depressing situation. Sandy Hook was another example that the problem is not too few guns in this country, but too many. Now we have more still. Does anybody really feel safer?

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