While Ralphie Parker may annually take center stage in pining for that infamous Red Ryder BB gun with the compass in its stock for Christmas, he's far from alone in receiving a firearm for the holiday.
The latest FBI figures indicate that guns were flying off store shelves as fast as the hottest electronics and toys this Christmas.
Record numbers of guns were purchased this holiday season, according to statistics derived from background checks required to buy firearms. Another indicator is the jump in requests for gun permits.
Crime is up and the economy is down, creating a perfect storm for more guns being sought by citizens for their own protection.
Apparently Hoosiers were among those finding firearms under their Christmas tree this year. And we need not look any further than Greencastle and Putnam County for proof.
The Greencastle Police Department has taken notice, aware of an upswing in requests for gun permits that have been keeping office staff busy recently fielding phone calls and walk-in requests.
GPD and the Putnam County Sheriff's Department receive the final paperwork in the process of local residents who complete an online gun-permit application.
Currently the state is offering a lifetime gun permit (overall cost is approximately $135 with $75 going to the state, $50 to the local authority and another $10 going to a private fingerprinting company).
The lifetime permit is apparently a bargain, considering a four-year permit runs about $40.
The push to get the permits, a GPD spokesman said, is at least partially due to the public's belief that the lifetime permit will disappear, just as the lifetime deer hunting license did recently.
"So everybody is in a big rush to get these," she said, noting that the demand has even created a cottage industry of fingerprinters who come to town about once a week and charge $9.95 for taking a set of fingerprints to include with the gun-permit application.
With only a couple of days left in the month, the FBI reports that December background checks have already topped the previous one-month record (set only in November) of 1,534,414 inquiries made by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (aka NICS).
In just the last six days before Christmas alone, nearly a half-million background checks were done.
Two days before Christmas, the NICS ran 102,222 background checks, marking the second-busiest day in history.
The one-day record was set this year on Black Friday (the big shopping day following Thanksgiving) with 129,166 searches. By comparison, the previous one-day high had been Nov. 28, 2008, when gun dealers made 98,000 requests for background searches.
FBI officials did not offer a theory on the spike in gun sales. It's also unclear how many of those background checks were for people who had never owned a gun before or how many were for gun owners adding to their collections.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association (NRA) assessment of the situation is that figures indicate more people believe they need guns for self-defense.
An example of that is the report earlier this week that a local woman had a .38 caliber handgun stolen from her car. That is not an everyday police report in Greencastle.