Catoosa and Walker see 60-70% increase in weapons carry permits issued during pandemic

Emily Crisman, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
·2 min read

Apr. 19—The COVID-19 pandemic has been a busy time for Northwest Georgia probate court clerks, who issue weapons carry permits for residents of Georgia counties. Catoosa and Walker counties both saw big increases in the number of weapons carry permits they issued in 2020 compared to 2019.

In 2020 Catoosa County issued 2,573 carry permits, according to Catoosa County Probate Court records. That's about a 60% increase over the 1,612 issued in 2019.

The increase in permits issued in Catoosa last year occurred despite a three-month pause in the issuance of permits at the start of the pandemic, during the time period when weapons carry permits were deemed a nonessential service.

The county has issued 823 permits so far in 2021, which shows a slight decrease in the monthly average compared to 2020.

In Walker County, 1,404 weapons carry permits were issued in 2019. In 2020 the number of carry permits issued jumped to 2,400 — about a 71% increase over the previous year, and the highest number of permits issued in a single year in Walker County, said Shannen Aters, Walker County Probate Court chief clerk.

The county has issued 800 carry permits so far in 2021, she said.

"If I had to guess, it's due to the pandemic," Aters said, as to why she thinks 2020 was such a big year for carry permits.

Despite the increase in permits issued during the pandemic, only about 4% of Catoosa's 67,580 residents — the county's population according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey — and about 3% of Walker County's 69,761 residents acquired carry permits in 2020, including both new permit holders and renewals, which are required every five years.

That puts the counties in the middle of the pack when it comes to permitted gun carriers. According to a 2019 report by the nonprofit Crime Prevention Resource Center, 7.3% of American adults have handgun carry permits, though when taking the most restrictive states of New York and California out of the equation, the percentage jumps to 8.75%.

A bill that would have allowed anyone who has a concealed-weapons permit from any state to carry weapons in Georgia recently died when the state Legislature convened for the year. House Bill 218 also would have prohibited gun permitting, gun sales and shooting ranges from being shut down in a state of emergency.

Over the state line, Tennessee became the 19th state to adopt a permitless carry law on April 8. Applicable to people older than 21, or members of the military older than 18, the law will allow Tennessee residents to carry handguns openly or concealed without a permit when it goes into effect July 1.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com