President Obama's one-word slogan during last year's campaign — “change” — has meant different things to different people.
But many people in Jefferson County apparently feel that one change will mean stricter gun-control laws, as the sheriff has been busy with applications for concealed-weapon permits.
The sheriff's office issued 2,314 concealed-weapon permits in 2008, more than double the number issued in 2007 and more than three times the total for 2006.
"We don't have the reason," said sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley, saying the sheriff's office is precluded by law from asking applicants why they're seeking permits so long as they meet the legal requirements.
Sheriff Ted Mink, however, has an idea about the reason.
"It's because they're afraid somebody is going to take away their guns or their gun rights," Mink said, adding that sheriffs across the state have seen an increase in applications for carry permits.
In 2007, the last year for which an official count of concealed-weapon permits was compiled for every county in the state, 9,370 permits were issued. Since Jeffco's numbers more than doubled from 2007 to 2008, Mink expects the 2008 statewide numbers to be much higher as well. Jefferson County was second to El Paso County in the number of permits issued in 2007; El Paso County issued 2,101 permits that year.
Mink said the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is "buried" with the background checks it must conduct on applicants. And Kelley said the sheriff's office remains busy as well.
"It's taxing on us," Kelley said, explaining that the sheriff's office has 90 days from the application file date to issue a permit or tell the applicant why it was denied.
"The clock starts ticking," she said.
Kelley said the applications are easy to spot at the sheriff’s office because they are in distinctive blue folders.
"They're stacked all over the place," Kelley said.
Mink has to personally approve each application, which can take anywhere from a few minutes to months, depending on the applicant's history.
"They bring them up in stacks of 100," Mink said. "They're all over my office."
Mink said he's not necessarily concerned about possible consequences of the increase in applications.
"I would be concerned if there was a reported increase of people misusing their privilege to carry a concealed weapon," Mink said. "I don't think we have reason to believe there are wholesale misuses of concealed-carry permits."
Mink said his speculation about citizens being uneasy about Obama's gun policies might not be the only reason in play, pointing out that "it's all over the board as to why" applications are up.
But one man sitting in the sheriff's office waiting area on the afternoon of Jan. 29 didn't mince words.
"It's primarily self-protection," said the South Jeffco resident, who refused to be identified. "But I also think the privilege may go away at some point."
Was he referring to the politics of Barack Obama?
"Of course," he said. "All his liberal friends want to get rid of guns."
The man said he had read on the Internet that Obama selected his Cabinet members based in part on their positions on gun control. A Google search of the phrase "Obama taking guns away" brings up 33 million hits.
The increase in permit applications in Jeffco also seems to dovetail with anecdotal evidence from at least one local gun retailer. The manager of the gun outlet — who spoke only on the condition that he and his store not be identified — said buyers often cite the new president’s policies as a reason for buying guns and ammunition.