Neb. gun certificate requests surge after shooting

Grant Schulte, Associated Press
December 20, 2012

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Sheriffs in Nebraska's three largest counties are reporting record requests for firearm certificates in the wake of last week's school shooting in Connecticut.

Officials in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster counties said Wednesday that they've each recorded single-day highs this week in certificate applications. The certificates are good for three years, and can be used to buy more than one gun.

Douglas County Sheriff Chief Deputy Martin Bilek said his office processed an all-time high of 115 applications on Tuesday, and denied seven other requests. The Sarpy County sheriff's office received about 80 requests Tuesday. In Lincoln, Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner said his office received a record of 63 requests on Monday.

Wagner estimated his office had previously averaged 10 applications a day. The office has received 382 requests so far in December, he said, more than twice the 152 applications filed in December 2011.

The yearly totals have also grown since 2007, and spiked in October 2008 — the month before President Barack Obama won the presidency.

"Now that we're doing 63 on Monday — holy moly!" Wagner said.

Officials say the increases may be driven by fears that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., will inspire new gun-control laws.

Hall County Sheriff Jerry Watson said his office saw a similar spike in certificate requests when Obama first came into office in early 2009. He said his own department struggled to buy ammunition at the time, because manufacturers were swamped with requests. He said his deputies waited nine months for bullets that usually takes 30 to 60 days to arrive.

Smaller counties have seen increases this week as well. Grand Island Police chief Steven Lamken said his department has received 53 requests within the last week, compared with 63 in the preceding three weeks.

Sarpy County Sheriff's Capt. John Kucer said his department saw the number of requests increase to 36 on Friday, the day of the shooting, compared with the average of 20 to 25 per day. The number rose again to 41 on Monday, and hit the record of 80 on Tuesday.

Kucer said the agency has shifted some staff into the office to deal with the influx, and some workers are on overtime to run background checks and process all the requests.