The volume has been turned up on the gun control debate following the most recent mass shooting in Orlando, FL and efforts on Capitol Hill by (mostly) Democratic senators and representatives pushing for consideration of tougher laws to restrict gun purchases. The debate has become a louder talking point in the 4th Congressional District race between Rep. Jim Himes (D) and his challenger, state Rep. John Shaban (R).

Not only do mass shootings like Orlando, Sandy Hook and more spark increased contention and arguments over gun control, they often prompt a rise in gun purchases and permit requests. In CT, obtaining a permit to carry a pistol or handgun requires applying for a local, temporary permit first, in order to secure a state permit. In Wilton that application starts with the Police Department.

There are currently 690 permit holders in Wilton and 5,235 registered firearms, although according to Wilton police, the number of firearms is not exact as there may be residents with old unregistered weapons others brought into town by new residents.

Wilton’s Police Chief Robert Crosby says he has seen a definite rise in the number of pistol permit applications by Wilton residents over the last four years, although he doesn’t necessarily attribute any increase in the number of permit requests in Wilton to national news events. Most recently, there was a total of 52 pistol permit requests completed in Wilton in 2015; so far this year (Jan. 1-June 27, 2016) there have been 57 requests alone, making 2016 on track to possibly double the number of permits year-to-year by Dec. 31.

“We get about 6-7 requests a week, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it. We run backgrounds on people, search reports on databases, to make sure there’s no history we need to worry about,” Crosby says.

What’s involved? Connecticut law states an applicant must be 21 years old to apply for a pistol permit. Among the items an applicant has to provide to police is a birth certificate or passport as well as a letter or certificate from an authorized NRA Instructor. The applicant will be fingerprinted and interviewed by a detective, and then an investigation is done into the applicant’s history, researching criminal and motor vehicle records, judicial orders of protection, and a mental health database. Fingerprints are checked at the state and federal level. Interviews are conducted with family members, neighbors and employers, and character references are sought.

For the final step, each applicant must sit for an interview with Chief Crosby. During the 15-30 minute discussion, he asks for the reason the person is seeking a permit.

“Reasons can range from hunters who want to buy ammunition, to self protection, to not being sure with the new administration and being afraid of what could be taken away. There are different answers, and it depends on how far I go with discussing it. I’m not concerned about debating the 2nd Amendment, I’m concerned with safety.”

All told, the process can sometimes take up to 8 weeks. There are fees ($70 state, $70 local and $64.75 for fingerprint processing). Once the applicant is approved and issued a temporary permit, the application has to go through state registration to obtain a state permit. If approved, a pistol permit allows someone to carry a handgun (.22 to .45). (The application to obtain a long gun or rifle permit is filed entirely through the State Police.)

“It’s not a tough process to go through for someone with no issues, but it can be tougher if there are,” he says.

Crosby says that during discussions with someone applying for a pistol permit, his objective is to really reinforce safety⎯safe storage, handling and usage. “There can be a dangerous end from firearms, if you’re not safe, bad things can happen. I don’t ever want anyone to have an awful situation nor do I want one of my officers to ever have to investigate an accidental shooting,” he says.

Connecticut law prohibits issuing a gun permit to anyone…

  • under the age of 21 years old
  • who is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States
  • convicted of a serious juvenile offense
  • discharged from custody within the preceding 20 years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect
  • confined in a psychiatric hospital within the preceding 12 months by order of a probate court, or voluntarily admitted on or after October 1, 2013, to a psychiatric hospital (as defined in section 17a-495)
  • under a restraining or protective order issued by a court in a case involving the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against another person
  • subject to a firearms seizure order issued after notice and hearing
  • convicted of a felony
  • convicted of any of the below listed misdemeanors:
    • Illegal possession of narcotics or other controlled substances – 21a-279
    • Criminally negligent homicide – 53a-58
    • Assault in the third degree – 53a-61
    • Assault of a victim 60 or older in the third degree – 53a-61a
    • Threatening – 53a-62
    • Reckless endangerment in the first degree – 53a-63
    • Unlawful restraint in the second degree – 53a-96
    • Riot in the first degree – 53a-175
    • Riot in the second degree – 53a-176
    • Inciting to riot – 53a-178
    • Stalking in the second degree – 53a-181d

(source:  CT Dept. of Emergency Services and Public Protection)