Applications for concealed handgun licenses are spiking. Local gun and ammunition sales are soaring. The national computer system used to conduct background checks needed to buy guns from licensed dealers is so overloaded that the usual 15-minute wait is now sometimes taking up to four hours.

In Washington County, requests for concealed weapons permits have more than tripled, from an average of 12 a day to 42. And that’s not counting the huge influx of applications to renew expired permits. The office is so overwhelmed, it’s had to bring in more staff.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Pat Garrett is fielding so many gun-related questions from constituents that he felt compelled to write a letter explain how he opposes gun control (except when he supports it).

Are these rational responses to talk at the federal and state level about stricter gun laws? Or, is the public going on a gun-buying spree based on an unfounded belief that their constitutional rights are about to be rolled back?

The answer, in part, can be found by looking back just four years, when Barack Obama first was elected president. If you are a gun owner, you remember the mad rush for ammunition and weapons (handguns, shotguns and rifles) that began the day after Obama’s election.

By December of that year, you were lucky if you could find shells for your bird gun. Some stores began to limit the amount of ammo they would sell to any one customer so they could ensure enough supply for all customers. In other instances, the stores flat ran out of ammo.

In 2008 and early 2009, the run on guns and ammunition was based on the belief that a Democratic president would propose stricter gun regulations. As it turned out, nothing like that happened. Now, in 2013, we are seeing the same rush to buy weapons.

Gun stores in Washington County are reporting increased demand since the shooting in Connecticut.

This time around, gun enthusiasts’ reactions are perhaps more understandable, because there are actual state and federal gun-control proposals being circulated in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Clackamas Town Center shootings.

But even those proposals — expanded background checks, a reinstated ban on assault-style weapons and a limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines — would have little or no effect on hunters, collectors or people who lawfully carry concealed weapons.

No one is proposing any change that would stand in the way of the average, law-abiding, mentally stable American from owning a rifle, shotgun or handgun. This will become clearer when the uproar subsides and the gun rush of 2013 comes to an end.

In the meantime, what’s needed is a measured conversation about guns and their place in public safety. We’re encouraged when we hear reasonable voices that rise above the emotion surrounding this issue.

Many gun enthusiasts and a handful of gun shop owners in the metro area have said they support some new regulations that don’t infringe on the right bear arms: mandatory locks or secure storage for certain guns, a limit on the number of rounds that can be held in a clip and a national requirement, similar to Oregon’s, that gun-show sales require a background check.

Passing laws that make a difference seems to us to be an eminently reasonable approach, and we would encourage local residents to focus their attention on practical solutions to gun violence. They also should keep in mind that, regardless of the outcome of the current gun debate, people will still have the right to buy weapons or obtain gun permits in February, March, April or May — or any other month they might choose.

So, while lawmakers should move quickly to find consensus on politically palatable gun control measures, there’s no reason for firearm owners to rush to their local gun shop.

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