If you are thinking about applying for a gun permit, prepare for a long wait. To make an appointment to pick up the forms, get your fingerprints and photo taken, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Record Department is already booked up to April 2014.
Don’t expect to see handguns advertised at a local gun shop and think it is as simple as picking out the manufacturer, calibre and style. Unlike some states, New York has an extensive background check process that will only become more intense under pending regulations.
If everything goes right and you fill out the form, get the four required references and turn the form back in as soon as possible, expect another two to four month wait until the license is either approved, or denied.
Even though Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts and County Clerk Mike Jankowski have done their part to modernize and bring the gun license process up to speed, there are a number of factors frustrating those wishing to own a handgun.
One of the roadblocks is the number of applicants. The Sheriff’s Record Division simply does not have the staff to meet current demand. The days of simply showing up at the Record Division and expecting to ask for the forms, fill them out, have the fingerprint and photo taken while you waited are over. “The number of people wanting gun permits has exploded. We stopped walk-ins because we simply did not have the staff to handle them,” said Sheriff Barry Virts. The Sheriff is weary about adding more staff due to budget constraints and having the permit wave slow down. The Sheriff’s Office retains only $20 for its part in the process, with the Wayne County Clerk’s Office getting a $10 piece of the pie. The rest of the $121.50 goes to the State. Currently, two women in the Sheriff’s records Division are able to process gun permits.
“The Sheriff’s Office does not have a Pistol Permit Section. This work is conducted out of the Records Office. This Office handles all of the Criminal records paperwork, background checks and sex offender registrations. Pretty much all of the Police Services paperwork and associated tasks are funneled through this office,” said Chief Deputy Bob Hetzke.
The staff time requires appointments and only four are made each day. The applicant must pay a $121.50 fee, have the process explained in detail, have fingerprints and a photograph taken. The application is printed out with the fingerprints and photo electronically attached. This is the form the applicant leaves with, to completely fill out and obtain his/her four references. Once this is done, the form must be notarized before the application is returned.
Making the process even slower is the fact that about 1/3 of those applying for permits have yet to return with the finished form. The reason for this, according to the Sheriff, may be the realization that the person wanting a permit, may not qualify due to past legal indiscretions.
Another factor to consider when applying for a permit is that, if you do not complete the process within six months, a new picture is required. Any permit application left open for over a year requires the permit seeker to start all over and again pay the $121.50 fee.
Sheriff Virts said putting down incorrect information, or trying to hide information, even from 25 years ago, can stall, or cause a permit to be rejected. “Put down everything, even if it’s bad.”
Once the applicant returns, the process of making sure the application is properly completed and the four references are thoroughly checked by a Deputy is begun. Depending on how quickly the part-time deputy can contact and ask a series of questions of the four references and make the proper background check of the applicant, determines how fast the process will move. This includes the deputy making a home visit to ensure the address of the application.
A permit check now reaches outside of Wayne County to the State registry and any national incident reports.
If the gun permit applicant is not truthful on any past legal run-ins or discrepancies are found, or if any of the four references do not check out completely, more time passes before the permit continues on it path.
The gun permit, once completed by the Sheriff’s office is then forwarded to the County Clerk’s Office where it is formally filed before moving on to Wayne County Judge Dennis Kehoe’s approval, or denial.
New York’s process for gun permits registers a specific gun to a person. Many states, such as Pennsylvania, license the person, not the gun.
A person wanting a gun permit must choose what type of permit they want. Unlike some states such as Texas, New York does not have an open carry of weapons. In New York State applicant can obtain a A. Possess on Premises only permit, B. Carry Concealed for hunters and range shooters and C. Possess/Carry during employment.
The Records Clerk can supply the applicant with a sample form showing them where and what is necessary on the form.
A permitted gun carrier must notify the local Clerk’s office of an address change, or if they intend to add a gun to their permit. This process usually takes 5-10 days.
If there is no activity on a permit for five years, the presiding Judge orders a ‘Brady Check” to ensure there are no recent problems legally, or mentally with the permit holder. This includes any Family Court Orders of Protection that may have been issued against the permit holder. If a problem is detected, it is up to the presiding judge whether to deny, or approve continuation of the permit.
Another task facing the Sheriff’s office is when a permit holder is arrested. The State notifies the Sheriff’s office in a time consuming permit revocation process.
According to the Brady Law, eventually, by 2018, all permit holders will undergo scrutiny every five years.
Sheriff Virts emphasized that regional hand gun problems are occurring due to weapons coming in from out of state. “In New York, we already have the strictest laws on the books, even before the S.A.F.E. Act. He added that, under the controversial New York S.A.F.E. Act, new parameters have been set. A gun permit holder approved in the 1990s, who had a domestic situation in the 1980s that was not considered at the time to be a problem, may have his/her permit called into question. “There is no grandfathering in. That is the scary part of it,” added the Sheriff.
Sheriff Virts said he was amazed by the number of permit applicants, including a majority of women, some in the 80s and 90s. He often questions permit applicants on whether they are ready to kill if the occasion allows. “I tell them if you are not willing to pull the trigger and kill and take the life of an intruder, don’t get a permit.”
A Times reader told of an encounter in a Williamson parking lot last week. Four males surrounded him, one with a knife demanding money. The man pulled out a handgun and the men fled. He did not call police and report the incident in fear he would get arrested.
“I had 10 rounds in the clip and another in the chamber.” He feared that due to regulations of only having seven rounds in the gun (due to the S.A.F.E. Act), he would be the one arrested.
Chief Deputy Hetzke said the police would not have checked out the man’s licensed weapon for the number of rounds, but would have appreciated the report of the incident.
“The next person they approach may not have a gun.”