CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - As a very violent year comes to a close here in Chatham County, we've discovered an interesting, perhaps alarming trend.
Thousands more of you applied for and received concealed-weapons permits. The numbers exceeding last year's applications by an amazing 20 percent.
The numbers prove that more people are making that decision to carry that gun with them. Some of those people are getting their permit before they even own a gun.
Thousands more Chatham County residents are loading their guns and taking them out the door.
"I know I can just buy a gun but I want to be able to conceal it so I can protect myself and my family," said Kenneth Gauntt.
Gauntt got his permit a week ago. Now, he's looking for the right gun. Crime, or at least the perception of it, is a factor.
"The local crime rate definitely has something to do with it. I've lived in Savannah about four years and seems like each year, there's more and more shootings every day," said Gauntt.
For gun shops across Savannah, it's something they're seeing every day.
"The problem is if you can run away or you're going to leave someone in harm's way that you care for like a loved one, spouse, child, parent, you got to fight back. What's the response to deadly force? Deadly force," said Dick Berman, the owner of Thunderbolt Guns.
Thunderbolt Guns sells rifles, shotguns and handguns. Handguns are flying off the shelves, though.
"It's easier to carry a handgun and use a handgun in a confined space," said Berman.
Across town at The Gun Shop, it's the same story.
"We printed out fliers off the probate court website because we had a lot of people coming in asking how to get their carry permits," said Christopher Cherry, the manager of The Gun Shop.
Almost 5,500 people have applied for a weapons permit this year. That's up 800 from last year. That demand is slowing down the process for many gun owners.
"They told him it was going to take 10 weeks. Two years ago when my wife went to go get hers, she got hers back in 10 days," said Cherry.
For those living here in Chatham County, it comes down to one thing: safety.
"I like to go downtown but I definitely want to feel safe too," said Gauntt.
"You're a law abiding citizen, you've become part of the solution. You're no longer part of the problem if you're an armed, legally-armed citizen," said Berman.
State law doesn't allow a database of active weapon carry permits in Georgia. Nearly 200,000 people in 2015 applied for a weapons carry permit according to the state's court website.
In South Carolina, there are a little more than 275,000 active weapon carry license holders.
The permit costs at least $75 depending on the county you live in. The license must be renewed every five years.
The wait time to get a license depends on the amount of people applying. Right now, the wait is about two and a half months.
All of the states surrounding Georgia recognize the state's carry permit if you're traveling through the state.
For the full list of states that recognize Georgia's permit, click here.