What follows is the beginning to a multi-part series. As a resident of Chenango County in New York State – and amidst this whole SAFE Act fiasco – I thought it would be a good idea to document the process of applying for (and potentially receiving) a pistol permit.
The second amendment to the US Constitution reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Interpret that however you personally see fit, and I'll do the same.
I was reluctant to even go get a pistol permit application. The thought to first cross my mind: “Really? I need to go get permission from the government and give them 'who-knows-what' information in order to possess a pistol? Bogus.”
Regardless, I trekked over to the County Office Building Thursday to grab an application from the County Clerk's office. I had already read the information available online regarding what the application required, hence my apprehension about even bothering. In order to exercise my “right,” I must first obtain permission. Hmm.
For anyone interested, picking up the application is free of charge and I was told the fees “come later.”
The court's directive is stapled on the top of the eight page packet and is signed by the Honorable Frank B. Revoir Jr., Chenango County Court Judge.
The letter states all permits will be limited to hunting and target shooting.
This interested me right off the bat. Law enforcement individuals carry pistols for neither hunting nor target shooting and in my opinion, just because they wear a badge doesn't mean they magically have extra rights. (Yes, I am aware LEOs have training, but I may very well be just as trained and experienced in weapons systems).
The directive additionally states if the permit is granted, I would be allowed to carry the weapon from my home to the location where I will be target shooting or hunting. If the permit is issued, I will have one year to take a “Court approved Pistol Permit Safety Course.” I'm looking forward to seeing the list of approved courses.
If the initial permit is granted, I would then have the option to apply for a conceal and carry “privilege” if I take one of its “approved” courses. That application would be reviewed and either approved or denied.
The first step of the actual application is titled “Chenango County Pistol Permit Personal History Questionnaire.” Automatic turn-off, but I've decided I'll continue with it. The only thing that made me happy thus far was guideline one: “Hand print clearly in black ink.” Black ink is my favorite. It really went downhill from there.
The personal history page asks for my Facebook address. If I omit it, chances are my application will be rejected. What bearing does my Facebook address have on my right to possess arms? Sure, whoever may check out my profile won't be able to see all that much, as my privacy settings don't allow the public to see a whole lot; but one might see that I'm the Managing Editor of The Evening Sun, and if the individual so chooses to scroll through the profile photos that are public, they will see me operating a firearm in a safe manner.
Next, I'm not sure what the relevance is of my marital status. Am I engaged? Absolutely not. I don't believe in state-sanctioned marriage, and I don't understand what it really has to do with anything. Also, I hate to nit-pick, but “singe” is the option instead of “single,” so if I am supposed to fill this out accurately, I'm not sure which to check off. “Singe” doesn't apply and if I leave that unanswered, the application may be rejected. Believe me, I know we all make spelling errors, but when an applicant is threatened with denial for filling something out that is a falsehood, I am reluctant to choose the option I can assume applies but is actually spelled incorrectly.
Then comes education, military and employment. Previous employer's phone numbers? Weird.
Arrest record section follows that. All arrests including juvenile delinquent and traffic arrests must be included. Even expunged, dismissed and sealed cases must be included. Interesting … I'll leave it at that.
Four character references from folks who reside in the county are required. I hear this is the “toughest” part. Not necessarily tough to find four people to vouch for you that you're not a psycho, but four people who will actually fill out and return the required paperwork. Finding four people is no biggie. I suppose my reluctance here is not knowing exactly what is required of said people. How much personal information must they disclose to the government about themselves? That makes me apprehensive. I don't want to put other folks in an uncomfortable situation by any means. Hopefully all that's required is a simple, “My name is 'X' and Ashley is a stand-up human who should be allowed to possess a firearm.”
Next I have to put my John Hancock (plus SSN, DOB and address) on a form allowing any law enforcement agency to release all information pertaining to criminal history, records, or complaints to the Chenango County Sheriff's Office. Alright, go ahead. Check me out.
I must admit, though, I wondered at four different locations on the application thus far how many people have said, “Jeeze, never mind” because of the hassle. How many folks who are attempting to “legally” obtain firearms are either intimidated or dissuaded because of the application process?
Then comes the state application. I'll check “carry concealed” on this form, although it is clear in the court's directive that if a permit is issued, it will only be for hunting or target shooting and concealed carry would be an option later.
“Yes” or “No” questions come next. Simple little check boxes. Have I been in a mental institution? Have I ever been petitioned against in family court? Have I ever had a pistol license revoked? Negative.
Falsehoods on the application are punishable by fine, imprisonment or both.
Good thing I don't lie.
Full face photos required as well. Plain background, color or black and white. You could pay the County Clerk to have them taken, but I'd advise against that.
Fear not, though, the “free” part is over. You'll then have to pay $10 to the Sheriff's Department when dropping off your completely filled out application and notarized criminal record check form.
Fingerprinting is then done through the Sheriff's Department, which also involves fees. (I'll write about that process if I make it that far).
Upon pistol permit approval, there is another $10 fee to the clerk's office.
The application covers Facebook, prior jobs, family, education ... but not once - not even in one of its simple little 'check yes or no' questions – does it ever ask if I know how to operate a pistol. It doesn't ask if I know what a pistol is. It doesn't ask if I think I can safely operate a pistol. Not once.
I'd also like to note that some folks must appear before the judge at a hearing regarding permit applications. I see it on the court calendar sometimes. I wonder what that's all about.
Perhaps I'll get to find out first-hand.