Went to Allegheny County Sheriff for My Conceal Carry Permit

By on March 24, 2017

There may be a lot of people walking around Allegheny County legally carrying a gun on their person, in their purse, or in their car.


In Allegheny County Sheriff’s Firearms Permit office, you fill out a form, then wait your turn to submit your application with one of the deputies. Background checks are conducted.

The City of Pittsburgh sits within Allegheny County, a county with one of the highest rates of conceal carry applicants (and permits granted) in the U.S. The sheriff’s office, on average, processes 130-140 new permits or renewals every weekday. In fact, Allegheny County has for years ranked as one of the top 3 counties in the U.S. for conceal carry permits issued. I’ve heard stories of lines so long that they wrap around the courthouse; a 45 to 60-minute wait is not unusual. Today, however, I was in and out with my new permit in 25 minutes. It cost $20 and is good for 5 years.

Handguns, Not for the Inexperienced

The Sheriff’s Firearms Permit office has a small waiting room with application forms, pens, and 6 school chairs to sit in while filling out the form. The five people on either side of me included an older white couple well into their 70s, an older black gentleman, a 20-something white guy, and the 22-year old student next to me. I asked her why she’s getting a conceal carry permit. “Because when I walk on the streets down here [downtown], it’s pretty disgusting what guys say to me. I feel really uncomfortable.” She attends one of several colleges located in downtown Pittsburgh. (Read the unsavory side of college campuses here).

This attractive young woman has never shot a gun and admitted being nervous about it. To somehow bolster her confidence, she said her sister has one locked up in a safe. Her Dad and uncle were going to find her a gun and teach her how to shoot. Egads! I hate hearing this. In some cases, guns are not the most appropriate self defense tool.

3 Great Reasons for Pepper Spray for This Young Lady

In my opinion, instead of a gun, she’d do herself a MUCH GREATER self defense service in carrying a kickass pepper spray. I recommend Fox Labs Mean Green Pepper Spray.Why? One, it’s easy to use and deploy. Two, it’s extremely effective, (read this story about a young woman on the wrong street in New Orleans at midnight). Three, it’s a much lower barrier to entry, psychologically and logistically, than a handgun. Period. To women attending colleges and walking down unseemly streets at day or night, getting cat calls, my advice to you: Buy high-grade pepper spray (not Mace). Read up on how to use it (don’t stand downwind!), and buy more than one to have in purses, pockets and book bags.

To Conceal Carry is a Huge Responsibility

I’m a good shot. I may even go for marksmanship badges, because the frisbee/tennis/softball player in me thinks it would be fun. As an NRA instructor, doing so recognizes a heightened level of target shooting skill. But I’m not going to carry a handgun in public. There’s a wide array of parameters and problems that come with shooting out-of-doors or in a buildings amidst other people–it’s not target shooting at a range. For all my practice, I still haven’t shot at moving targets (yet); I’m not trained in tactics; I’m not familiar with Pennsylvania law about shooting outside the home. These are all extremely important, extremely practical things every person carrying a handgun on their person, in their purse, or in their car needs to know.

I urged the young lady to take NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting. It’s a solid starting point to learn how guns work, handle them safely, and learn how to shoot. Then get your permit. I suggested she go to my web site and learn about Fox Labs pepper spray as well.

In my opinion, carrying a gun with the possibility to shoot it in a public place requires an advanced level of shooting, awareness, and mindset.For those determined to carry, do it responsibly. Take classes in the logistics, tactics, practice and legal aspects of shooting your handgun. Here’s one organization that offers classes, and/or look here for certified NRA instructors who teach best practices in conceal carry.

Have Firearm Permit, Gun(s) Will Travel

So why did I get a conceal carry permit?  Because I’m flying to Florida for advanced training in self defense shooting inside a simulated home. I have a great mentor who’s located and setting up an abandoned building where he’ll train me in logistics and tactics of indoor self defense shooting. I’m taking both my shotgun and handgun, because one of those are what I’d be using in real life. (God forbid). To fly with firearms, each needs to be stored in a locked hard case, declared, and checked-in. I need a show my firearms permit to fly with them.

And so, self defense, tool-wielding Pittsburghers, yinz be safe out there n’at. Choose the right tool for your situation, and learn to use it as if your life depended on it.


Suzy Meyer, Author
Pittsburgh, PA

I'm a landscape architect, gardener, and of late, a certified NRA instructor. I enjoy practicing T’ai Chi, playing bocce, and walking through watersheds.. This blog is my journey full of learning curves to calm the chaos.


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