CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Thousands of people are being forced to wait months in Chatham County for their concealed carry permits.
The chief clerk says the backlog is a result of a lack of personnel and office space, not an influx of applications. In fact, carry permit applications weren't up in 2017; they were down almost 700 from 2016. The new clerk says their goal is to get these permits out in 30 days.
Aaron and Sarah Tompkins made a stop in probate court Thursday. They're just two of a much larger group of people waiting on gun carry permits now.
"I knew what I was in for, but it's something I've been meaning to do for a while," said Aaron Tompkins.
"Other than it being my right to do so, I travel a lot, I'm alone a lot, I work downtown in this city," said Sarah Tompkins, a 12-year veteran paramedic in Chatham County. "I feel like there's a surplus of danger."
Aaron just applied Thursday; his wife, however, applied a lot longer ago - all the way back in October, in fact.
The probate court doesn't hide the wait. On their website, it said the five-month wait is due to lack of personnel to process applications.
We checked with two other counties in the Coastal Empire. Their wait is nothing like this. In Bryan County, applicants can expect their carry permits within seven to 10 days, sometimes even quicker.
In Effingham County, applicants can expect theirs to be processed in about two-and-a-half weeks.
"The fact that I'm waiting in excess of five months knowing friends that have their permits within a week, from neighboring counties, makes it more frustrating," Sarah Tompkins said.
The issue came up in the last county commission meeting. The board discussed increasing funding to probate court to allow for temporary hires to handle the applications. The chairman nipped that quickly, adding he doesn't see this as an emergency.
"I'm reluctant to recommend we dip into emergency funds for this process. I see it as a privilege, not an emergency," said Chairman Al Scott in the commission's Jan. 26 meeting.
He said he's willing to discuss increasing the funding for probate court in the next budget process this summer. For folks like the Tompkins, a shorter wait would be a lot better.
"If it's a priority to get it out the door quickly, that's what will happen. If it's not a priority, then it won't happen," Aaron Tompkins said.
The chief clerk of the probate court is scheduled to address commissioners at Friday morning's meeting. The budget will be set this summer.