State records indicate that 499 Easton residents held Connecticut pistol permits as of Dec. 20, 2012, making the town the most heavily armed community per capita in the state.
Easton is just ahead of Monroe, according to the figures from the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
The number of permit applications keeps growing, after spiking in 2009, the year President Obama took office, and continuing to rise after the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, according to Joanne Benson, records clerk at the Easton Police Department.
Ms. Benson provided statistics on gun applications from 2004 to 2012 to The Easton Courier at its request.
“It’s unbelievable how many more have come in,” Ms. Benson said. “They come in almost every day, sometimes as many as 10 to 12 a day.”
In Connecticut, gaining a pistol permit requires applicants to complete a National Rifle Association-approved safety course. The course includes classroom study and live-fire of a semiautomatic pistol or revolver.
Applicants must also submit their fingerprints for an FBI criminal background check. Mental illness or criminal convictions for felonies or some misdemeanors will disqualify an applicant, as will a domestic assault conviction or restraining order. Permit holders can also have their permits revoked if they are convicted of crimes.
When someone buys a handgun at a gun store, the dealer sends a form to the purchaser’s local police department. The gun owner then must go to the police department to be fingerprinted, and police send the fingerprints to the FBI and the state.
“I look at the forms, and if the person has a clean record we issue a temporary carry permit,” police Chief James Candee said. “They have to apply to the state for a permanent license.”
Permit holders do not necessarily own guns, and some rifle and shotgun owners may not have pistol permits. It is not necessary to obtain a carry permit for shotguns or rifles, Chief Candee said.
Easton, with about one permit holder for every 14.7 residents, and Monroe (15.0) statistically have the most pistol permit holders based on their population. Greenwich (37.3), Darien (38.3) and Stamford (39.5) have the fewest permit holders per capita.
Bridgeport, with 4,031, has the most total permits; however, this amounts to only 35.7 permits per capita, based on the city’s 144,229 residents.
The state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is responsible for issuing Connecticut pistol permits, and though the names of the permit holders are confidential, the hometowns of the permit holders are not.
The issue of pistol permit holders came to national prominence in the weeks after the Newtown school shootings when a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of permit holders. The newspaper argued that it was a matter of public safety and that the public, and particularly parents whose children visited friends’ homes, had a right to know if there were guns in that home.
According to the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, there are 179,092 pistol permit holders in Connecticut. The permit allows the holder to carry a pistol in public, with some exceptions such as churches, schools and post offices.
The numbers indicate a seeming lack of correlation between permit holders and such factors as crime rate or affluence. Easton has among the highest number of permit holders per capita in the state, Darien among the lowest. Stratford (17.1) and Trumbull have almost identical per-capita rates, as do Bridgeport (35.7) and New Canaan (35.1).
Although the national trend is toward less violent crime, the answer with regard to preventing future mass murders remains elusive.
Many people say the government should be discussing all methods of controlling violence, including better mental health screening, better background checks for permit holders, limiting magazine clips to seven rounds, and restoring the assault weapons ban.
Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster semiautomatic assault weapon with a 30-magaizne clip that was legally owned by his mother to murder her, 20 children and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide. His mother, Nancy Lanza, legally owned six guns, according to reports, and she took her son to rifle ranges.
The Connecticut State Police described and identified the weapons seized at the school crime scene as follows:
• Seized inside the school: Bushmaster .223 caliber — model XM15-E2S rifle with high capacity 30 round clips; Glock 10 mm handgun; Sig-Sauer P226 9mm handgun
• Seized from the suspect’s car in the parking lot: Izhmash Canta-12 12 gauge Shotgun.
The case remains under investigation.