Ohio is on track this year to see a record-breaking number of newly issued concealed-weapons licenses.
County sheriffs issued 63,481 new permits in the first half of 2013, according to figures released Thursday by the state attorney general's office. The six-month figure tops almost every yearly total for new licenses issued in Ohio since the program began in 2004.
The highest yearly total of licenses issued in Ohio, including new and renewed licenses, was 76,000 in 2012. More than 64,600 of those were new licenses.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said he could only speculate as to the reasons for the jump. But he noted that more people are becoming familiar with the law, which could have provided a small boost. DeWine said he believed the spike in numbers was driven by demand.
"It is not a question of the sheriffs being more efficient or anything else," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It is more people want to get their concealed carry permit and more people are getting their concealed carry permit."
Gun control became a nationwide issue this year and Congress unsuccessfully made moves to tighten weapons restrictions, particularly after the Dec. 14 slaying of 20 school children and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school. Ohio's laws are considered less restrictive than others in other states.
It doesn't require background checks for all gun sales, and the state doesn't keep track of who buys them. Violent misdemeanors, such as domestic violence, also don't disqualify someone from making a firearm purchase.
Ohio's licensing statistics for the second quarter of this year — April through June — show that more than 48,000 new and renewed permits were issued.
Montgomery County, home to Dayton, was among the counties with the most new permits. The sheriff there reported issuing 1,750 licenses. Franklin County, which encompasses Columbus, saw 1,362 new licenses. More than 1,600 new permits were issued in Lake County, a mix of Cleveland suburbs and truck farms along the Lake Erie shore.