Most will remember 2016 as the year of the contentious presidential election, when Democrat Hillary Clinton faced off against Republican multi-billionaire Donald Trump, but the state officials who keep watch over handgun sales may well remember it as the year of the handgun permit.
Connecticut residents rushed to get pistol permits in 2016, with a total of 29,941 issued for the year, compared with 17,127 the previous year, said Trooper Kelly Grant, spokesman for the state police. That’s a 73% increase. Wilton had the biggest increase in lower Fairfield County, at 54%.
Political minds are quick to point out the race between liberal and conservative ideologies during the year, with liberals being tight on gun control while conservatives are pro gun rights, but Grant did not wax poetic on the subject.
“We don’t know why,” Grant said. “Everyone who gets a pistol permit has a different reason for wanting a gun.”
The Herald tried to find out why.
A reporter asked one gun shop worker, in a local Shelton gunstore, and said the employees would not answer questions from the press.
The Herald then tried international firearm distributor Charter Arms, which is also located in Shelton, where president Nick Ecker said he hasn’t noticed a change in the amount of people who buy pistols from the well-known manufacturer, but has noticed a decline in the overall industry.
“Too many guns were made, but we don’t do that,” said Ecker.
The Charter Arms President said he attributes the increase in people that obtained their pistol permits within the last year to former President Barack Obama’s time in office.
“It’s because Obama turned our police officers into criminals,” said Ecker. “Every time anyone got shot, before anyone knew anything, he came out against the police. People are arming themselves more and more because the police have been turned into criminals.”
The Wilton Bulletin tried Bob’s Gun Exchange in Darien, where owner Bob Montlick said he has operated his shop 60 years and there have always been ups and downs.
He did not pin the sudden rise in handgun purchases to worries over the possibility of a Clinton win.
“Whether they were afraid or not, of what the election might do, I can’t say,” Montlick said. “I haven’t given it much thought,” he said.
Shelton Police Lieutenant Bob Kozlowsky said he thinks the election year could’ve been a factor in the increase in not only permits granted, but the number of applications submitted in total.
“In 2015, there were 259 pistol permit applications submitted in total, which includes the ones that were denied,” said Kozlowsky. “In 2016, there was 503 pistol permit applications, which shows that large increase.In 2017, currently there has been 87 permit applications. If this year’s pace continues we won’t see final numbers like he have in the past two years.”
Kozlowsky said his department hasn’t noticed any change in firearm related crimes and that he believes that the increase in pistol permits awarded comes from people reacting to the possibility of more strict laws being passed.
Reports from the industry are that now that President Trump is in office, the rush to get guns seems to have passed. Business has reportedly tapered off, since Trump’s policies are perceived as no threat to those who want to own guns.
“Things are quiet right now,” said Robert Power, president of the Ramapoo Rifle and Revolver club in Ridgefield, where he said there was a burst of activity in 2016, which he attributed to the Clinton effect, but nothing now.
A spokesman for the National Rifle Association declined to be interviewed because the question does not concern its main area of focus, which is legal rights of gun owners. However, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown, said the fear of a Clinton administration played a role in a nationwide surge in handgun sales.
“It was a record year for firearms sales across the country, and an all-time record for criminal background checks to get a handgun permit,” said Mike Bazinet, spokesman for the NSSF, which represents gun makers.
“One factor certainly was the concern that a Clinton administration would try to impose stringent gun control laws,” Bazinet said. In Connecticut, another factor came into play as well. That factor was the strict 2013 gun control laws in the state that made it impossible to buy ammunition without a permit.
“You need an ammunition permit now, and a pistol permit covers all future acquisition of firearms, so it drove people to seek pistol permits,” Bazinet said. “The permits are up even more than they would have gone up anyway, just based on Hillary Clinton running for office. So it was an unintended effect of the gun control law. I am aware of people who have gotten a pistol permit just to buy ammunition, and not even bought a pistol,” he said.
Following are the number of gun permits per 100 residents for some towns in Fairfield County, followed by the total number of permits and the number purchased in 2015 and 2016.
- Shelton — 20.95 per 100, for a total of 8,382. Permits numbered 271 in 2015 and 456 in 2016, an increase of 40%.
- Monroe — 19.01 per 100, for a total of 3,731. Permits numbered 108 in 2015 and 201 in 2016, an increase of 46%.
- Milford — 15.72 per 100, for a total of 8,316. Permits numbered 411 in 2015 and 563 in 2016, an increase of 27%.
- Trumbull — 14.41 per 100, for a total of 5,224. Permits numbered 159 in 2015 and 320 in 2016, an increase of 50%.
- Stratford — 13.34 per capita, for a total of 6,986. Permits numbered 299 in 2015 and 445 in 2016, an increase of 48%.