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Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052

tel. (860) 229-0213 • fax (860) 229-0235 • e-mail


Legal Opinion

February 1998

Why every dealer should have an eligibility certificate

If you’re reading this column, you probably know that unless you’re a sworn police officer, you need a pistol permit if you want to buy a handgun in Connecticut. You may also know that instead of a pistol permit, you can get an "eligibility certificate." Most people think that because the certificate merely allows you to purchase, and not to carry, it would be silly to go for the certificate and not the permit, especially since the requirements for the certificate and the permit are almost identical.

The fact is, however, if you’re a dealer, you need an eligibility certificate as a backup.

Let me explain.

The law says that to hold a permit for retail sale of firearms, you must have a pistol permit or an eligibility certificate. True, you have to go through an application process and the NRA safety course to get either the permit or the certificate. But the reasons for denying or revoking your application are different for the permit and the certificate.

The permit or the eligibility certificate can be denied or revoked for five basic reasons:

1. You have been convicted of a felony or of certain misdemeanors.

2. You have been hospitalized for mental illness in the past 12 months.

3. You are subject to a protective order or a restraining order.

4. You have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental illness, in the past 20 years.

5. You are an illegal alien.

There’s one more reason that the pistol permit can be denied or revoked: You are not a "suitable" person to hold a permit, in the opinion of the police (or, on appeal, the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners).

In the case of the eligibility certificate, however, "suitability" doesn’t apply. Period.

So what does this have to do with your retail-sale permit?

A recent case illustrates the point. Because of a minor incident in which no one was arrested, a Connecticut gun dealer had his pistol permit revoked by the state police, who claimed that the incident shows he is not a "suitable" person. The revocation undermined his retail-sale permit, closing his handgun business. If he had an eligibility certificate (in addition to the pistol permit), he could have relied on that to keep his retail-sale permit. Without an arrest and a conviction, the eligibility certificate could not have been revoked, and the business would have stayed open.

The situation again raises the question of whether "suitability" should be part of the law. I say it shouldn’t. I’ll explain in a future column.


Copyright 1998 by Ralph D. Sherman

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