Guns: How many are there in Ridgefield?

Friends and neighbors may be armed these days.

Ridgefield is home to more than 1,700 guns — that’s in a town with about 25,000 people living in some 9,000 households.

There are 1,791 permits or eligibility certificates for various types of guns held by Ridgefield residents, according to the Connecticut State Police Special Licensing and Firearms Unit. That includes 1,463 active pistol permits, nine eligibility certificates needed since 2014 to buy weapons or ammunition, and 316 assault weapons and three machine guns registered in Ridgefield, the firearms unit said.

The last U.S. Census in 2010 counted 24,638 Ridgefield residents in 9,420 housing units in town. So the 1,791 permits and eligibility certificates suggest that there’s roughly one gun in town for every 14 Ridgefielders, and one gun for every five homes in town. However, those state numbers do not reflect the fact that many gun owners have more than one weapon, so it would be a stretch of reality to say one in every 14 Ridgefielders or one in every five Ridgefield homes has a gun. The figures shows the number of permitted guns, not the number of people with gun permits.

And the state numbers, provided by the licensing and firearms unit in June 13 response to an enquiry from The Press, do not provide much insight into the number of “long guns” — rifles or shotguns — in town. That’s because permits aren’t needed to own long guns, though the state does require “eligibility certificates” to purchase long guns, or ammunition for them.

The state firearms and licensing unit’s website says: “Effective April 1, 2014, you will be required to have either a pistol permit, eligibility certificate for pistol or revolver or a eligibility certificate for long gun in order to purchase firearms or legal magazines.”

The state firearms unit’s report of nine eligibility certificates in town included eight eligibility certificates for long guns and one for a pistol.

Possession of assault weapons is tightly regulated in Connecticut under laws passed in the wake of the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Assault weapons may be legally possessed only by people with certificates obtained before Jan. 1, 2014, or by military or law enforcement personnel in connection with their official duties.

The most common permitted weapons are pistols and revolvers, with the state police’s Special Licensing and Firearms Unit having on record 1,463 state pistol permits, which are good for five years.

The firearms unit said on June 13 that it had issued 78 new pistol permits in 2015, 150 new permits in 2016, and 46 so far in 2017.

Numbers for the 60-day pistol permits issued by Ridgefield Police were: 83 issued in 2015; 153 issued in 2016, and 42 issued this January through June 21, according to Captain Jeff Kreitz of the Ridgefield Police Department.

Background checks

Applicants for the five-year state pistol permits must already have obtained a temporary 60-day permit from the local police.

“We do the fancy footwork, the background checks, and fingerprints and so on,” said Ridgefield Police Chief John Roche.

He described the process.

“First, you go online, you can download and we have links on our website,” he said. “You can get an application, you can print out the application and complete it, then you’ve got to take a firearms safety course, an NRA firearms safety course: you get a certificate.

“Then you submit your application with the certificate, an official copy of your birth certificate, and photo to the Police Department. The captain, Tom Comstock, will give you a call to set up an appointment with one of the detectives. You come in, you get fingerprinted, interviewed, and we then do the background investigation on you, to see if you’re eligible to get a pistol permit — a 60-day temporary carry permit,” Roche said.

“You can then, from there, go to the state.”

In addition to requiring that someone be 21 or older, and have passed a gun safety course, to get a permit, the state restricts the issuance of permits to people with histories of serious crimes or mental health problems.

According to the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, firearms permits will not be issued or renewed to anyone who has “a felony conviction in any jurisdiction” or a conviction on any of numerous serious misdemeanor charges including: “illegal possession of controlled or hallucinogenic substances… criminally negligent homicide... assault of an elderly, blind, disabled or pregnant person or a person with an intellectual disability in the third degree… Threatening in the second degree… Reckless endangerment in the first degree… Unlawful restraint in the second degree… Riot in the first degree… Riot in the second degree… Inciting to riot… Stalking in the second degree.”

Connecticut law also prohibits issuance of firearms permits to anyone “convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” or “subject to a restraining order or protective order … In a case involving the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against another person.”

A history of psychiatric problems can also prevent someone from getting firearms permit in Connecticut.

This limitation includes anyone “confined to a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities within the preceding 60 months by order of a Probate Court” or “voluntarily admitted to a hospital within the preceding six months for reason other than solely for alcohol or drug dependence.”

The state also prohibits issues of firearms permits to anyone discharged from custody in the last 20 years “after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect.”

Gun permits will also not be issued in Connecticut to people who have been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces.

And the state also won’t grant firearms permits to people who are “illegal aliens in the United States” or who have renounced their U.S. citizenship.