Regardless of whether one believes it's a good idea, the fact is more and more people are carrying concealed firearms.

York County Sheriff Richard Keuerleber reported his office saw a 63 percent increase in the number of concealed weapons permits issued between 2001 and 2011 -- and a 24 percent increase in just the past two years.

Business is so brisk, he said, the sheriff's department has had to add counter hours just to accommodate the increase in applications.

There are currently 6,238 people in York County licensed to carry a firearm, and if the trend continues many more could be packing heat in the years to come.

The process isn't that hard, really.

For example, anyone who feels the need to carry a gun for personal protection, such as business owners who carry a lot of cash or people who work in dangerous areas, can apply for a permit.

The permits also can be issued for hunting, target shooting, gun collecting or "another proper reason."

Successful applicants have to pass a background check that includes calls to references and employers and questions about their "character" and "reputation."

That's all there is to it.

And that's what makes us nervous.

Pennsylvania does not require concealed weapons permit holders to complete any type of firearms safety course.


Yes, people are able to carry -- and some might need a weapon for their safety -- but that doesn't mean they know the first thing about handling a firearm or understand the responsibilities that go along with it.

We're not suggesting that none of the more than 6,000 people licensed to carry in York County voluntarily took a safety course.

Actually, we'd like to think most reasonable people have a healthy enough respect for firearms to seek out such training before strapping one on their hip.

But we also know not everyone is reasonable.

For that reason, we applaud two local lawmakers who are trying to teach concealed weapons permit holders how to exercise their rights responsibly.

State Reps. Seth Grove, R-Dover, and Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, who both have permits themselves, hosted a class last week for permit holders to learn about the basics of gun safety and their legal requirements under Pennsylvania's carry law.

Speakers included an attorney addressing the state's Castle Doctrine and a police officer who advised attendees how to interact with police while carrying a firearm.

Demand was overwhelming -- Saturday's event reached its 60-person capacity shortly after it was announced -- and Grove said he's seeking a larger venue to accommodate hundreds of people at a second session in the fall.

Still, these sessions are no substitute for mandatory training by a certified professional, which many other states wisely require of their concealed weapons permit holders.

After all, no state would ever issue a driver's license before an applicant proves he or she can operate a vehicle and know the rules of the road.

But given the increasing number of people acquiring the permits, we think classes like Grove's and Regan's are better than nothing -- and the legislators should hold them on a regular basis.