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Pistol permits on the rise

Ridgefield police have issued more pistol permits in recent years, hitting a high water mark in 2012.

There are some 749 active pistol permit holders in Ridgefield, according to State Police, up from around 573 in 2009.

Last year, some 91 pistol permits were issued here, but the calendar year isn’t used for the Police Department’s historical data. Instead the 12-month October through September period is used by the detective division.

Over that period, according to Board of Police Commissioners minutes, permits issued were:

88… 2011-12

58… 2010-11

54… 2009-10

82… 2008-09

39… 2007-08

30… 2006-07

28… 2005-06

29… 2004-05

Statewide, gun sales reportedly more than tripled between 2000 and 2012, from around 23,000 to around 78,000. In nearby Danbury, gun sales have reportedly quadrupled over that period.

Pistol permits are not the same as gun sales. Permits give a person the right to own and carry certain guns, but it’s possible for a permit holder to not own any guns or to own multiple guns. Some types of guns, like long guns, don’t require permits to own or carry.

Statewide gun sales shot up starting in 2009, the year President Obama took office, sparked by concern that the new president would lobby for more stringent regulation.

Though the town’s much smaller figures fluctuate much more than the statewide figures, there was a boom in Ridgefield’s pistol permits in 2008-09 that coincided with the statewide sales spike. In January of that year, there were 13 pistol permits issued here, prompting Police Commission Chairman George Kain to wonder at a commission meeting why there might be such an increase, according to minutes from a February 2009 meeting.

Commissioner Tom Reynolds at the time “stated that he has heard that with the new administration there could be a change in the gun laws [imposing more restrictions] and maybe people are getting their permits now before any changes come into play,” according to the minutes.

Fear that guns will no longer be as readily available, and fear for personal safety after reports of violence — which often coincide — are often pointed to as drivers of increased gun ownership.

News outlets around the country have reported major increases in gun and ammunition sales since the Newtown school shooting last month, especially, the AP reports, the style of high-powered semiautomatic rifle used by the Newtown shooter.

The shooting has sparked debate over gun rights nationally, with stronger words from national leaders than after other recent shootings. The president, who has expressed support for an assault rifle ban but not previously made the politically perilous issue a top priority, calling for swift legislative action on gun control. The National Rifle Association has opposed further restrictions on gun rights and called instead for armed guards at schools across the country.

The debate has played out locally as well, on the opinion pages of The Press.

Rob Freeman wrote in a letter last week that the NRA’s call for armed guards in schools was “truly vile” and pointed to a 2006 study that indicated the possibility that a gunfight could cause bystanders to be hit by guards’ or police officers’ bullets. The study, performed by the RAND Center for Quality Policing at the request of New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly, indicated officers missed their targets 70% of the time, and in gunfights with a target shooting back, officer accuracy dropped from 30% to 18%.

This week, Linda Lavelle argues in a letter that gun restrictions and gun-free zones make law-abiding citizens targets for armed criminals.

“We will never eradicate evil, but we can lessen the opportunities,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, a group of Ridgefield women has created a petition calling for gun reform.

Ridgefielders Giselle Mazier, Kristina Larson, Melissa Davis, Jessica Mancini, Gail Lehmann, Kathy McGerald, and Di Masters met on Dec. 27 to develop a plan for promoting gun reform. As part of their effort, they created a petition directed to the members of the Connecticut General Assembly. The women said they hope to demonstrate to legislators that “there is great consensus around banning the sale of high-capacity magazines in the state of Connecticut.”

The online petition is at gopetition.com/petitions/ban-high-capacity-magazines-in-connecticut.html.

The women said they will be active in promoting the March for Change in Hartford on Feb. 14.

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