Just over 200,000 Oregonians had a license as of July 10, up from 163,000 at the end of 2012, The Oregonian newspaper reported. About one in 15 adults in Oregon is licensed to carry a concealed handgun -- up from one in 22 adults in 2010.
The increase followed the Dec. 11 shooting at Clackamas Town Center, which left two shoppers dead and one wounded, and the massacre that occurred three days later at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Though the shootings started a nationwide push for stricter gun control, they also sparked a rush to buy guns before more restrictive laws might be passed. In December, the number of FBI background checks for gun purchases through federally licensed dealers soared by 39 percent.
Oregon, like Washington and Idaho, is a "shall-issue" state, meaning the law requires authorities to issue a license unless the applicants are disqualified for criminal records, mental illness or drug use.
California, by contrast, is a "may-issue" state, where applicants must make a persuasive case before authorities will issue a license. The difference is dramatic, with about one in every 550 California adults holding concealed-carry weapons licenses.
Reasons for obtaining a concealed handgun license vary, but personal safety is at the top of the list.
"I regard carrying a defensive weapon to be cheap insurance in the category of seat belts, life jackets and bike helmets," said retired airline pilot Eric Rush, 71, of Hebo. "I try to avoid situations in which I might need to use any of those."
According to Oregon State Police statistics, the increase in handgun licenses has been similar across the Portland area: 23 percent in Clackamas County, 24 percent in Washington County and 26 percent in Multnomah County.
The Clackamas County Sheriff's Public Safety Training Center & Indoor Shooting Range serves as county's processing center for concealed handgun licenses and is one of the most heavily used shooting venues in the Portland area. Interest in handgun training has been so strong that the range has had trouble keeping ammunition in stock.
"For a while, it was almost impossible to find 9mm pistol ammunition," said range manager Mike Palmer. "And when we could find it, it was really expensive."
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