Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Since the beginning of this year several employees at the State Law Enforcement Division have been working overtime almost every day to cut down on their thousands of concealed weapons permit application backlog.
"In January we had about 6,900 new applications that doesn't count renewals. 7,900 in February and 7,700 in March," said SLED Chief Mark Keel.
Those concealed weapons permit applications have not been processed. They are in a stack at SLED waiting to be manually imputed.
"Anytime we see talk about gun control we see an uptick in CWP's," said Keel.
Keel says the only problem with citizens applying for concealed weapons permits is the backlog of more than 21,000.
CWP permit requests almost doubled in the last year, with that in mind, Keel says they are facing an uphill battle in two ways. The first, every application has to be manually imputed by staff.
"It is very much labor intensive because there is a lot of data entry that has to be done and it has to be done more than one time."
After the data is put into the system, thousands of SLED's background checks are sent back from the FBI because of poor finger prints copies. Our state still does finger prints the old fashioned way, your finger and ink.
SLED officials say the application rejection rate is 10.4% and most of that comes from poor finger print scans.
There is a bill in the state house that will raise the application fee by $25. With that extra money Keel says they can make applications available online and try to invest in live-scan machines.
Keel says with the new automated system it would almost cut the wait time in half.
"We want the process to be easier on our consumers and we want the process to be easier on our employees because it doesn't make since that we have to duplicate data entry time and time again."
Keel says concealed weapons permits increase after incidents like the Newtown shooting, but he believes just as things were slowing down, the Boston bombing happened.
"This is the state of the world we live in and we don't know what new violent action will happen that will be another motivation for people to go get their CWP's."
By law SLED has 90 days to notify applicants if they have been accepted. They are relying constables volunteering just to meet that deadline and they are considering adding a second shift.