Atty. Ralph D. Sherman
130 West Main Street New Britain, Connecticut 06052
tel. (860) 229-0213 fax (860) 229-0235 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Pistol permits - who really gets revoked
In September a politician in West Hartford proposed an ordinance that would make it a crime to carry firearms on Town property (town hall, parks, etc.), even if you hold a State permit. The West Hartford proposal is dormant, if not dead, but in October an East Hartford politician started promoting a similar proposal. It seems local politicians are especially short of campaign issues this year.
It is illegal for a town to enact this type of ordinance, unless the ordinance exempts permit-holders. When I suggested adding an exemption, some politicians said that permit-holders were just the ones who should be kept off Town property.
The truth is, however, that permit-holders are quite law-abiding. I can say that with authority, thanks to information provided by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which issues Connecticut pistol permits.
There are about 143,000 State permits currently issued. If permit-holders are really the problem, it seems likely that many permits must be revoked every month or every year - especially when there are many reasons that a permit can be revoked in this state, even without an arrest. How many would you guess are revoked?
The fact is, in round numbers, DPS revokes about 50 permits per month, or about 600 per year. That's less than half of one percent of the total permits. But there's more to the story.
Of the 50 permits revoked each month, about half are revoked automatically because of temporary restraining orders or protective orders. Most of these orders are issued because of allegations made by a spouse when a divorce is in progress or about to begin. Any attorney who handles divorces knows that these allegations often are false, and in many cases no one is convicted of a crime.
DPS has no options when restraining orders or protective orders are issued against permit-holders. The permits must be revoked, according to statute. As one thoughtful police chief recently said to me, however, revoking all permits because of these orders is like using a bulldozer to knock over an anthill. The statute is a crude tool that causes a lot of unnecessary problems and may even make a situation worse. It is not unusual for one spouse to seek a restraining order in a divorce purely as a way of irritating the other spouse, especially the latter holds a pistol permit.
So restraining orders and protective orders account for half the revocations. Of the remaining 25 revocations per month, about four are for DWI cases in which the drunk driver was carrying a firearm. No one can argue with that; if you want to drink, please stay away from your motor vehicle, firearms, and power tools. But at four cases a month, out of 143,000 permit-holders, this is a rarity.
There are a few other miscellaneous reasons for revocations, like a firearm being accidentally discharged in a public place, but the only other category that is noteworthy is called "criminal charges pending." That means the permit-holder was arrested and charged with something that makes the permit-holder unsuitable, in the view of DPS. This category usually comes to about 17 per month, out of 143,000 permit-holders.
In a whole year, that's about 200 permit-holders revoked because of an arrest. That's less than two-tenths of one percent of 143,000 permit-holders. Now you can see why, in the states that began issuing permits in the past decade or so, law-enforcement officials have had to admit that permit-holders behave very well, despite some predictions to the contrary.
I wish our Connecticut revocation numbers were even smaller, but they do show that permit-holders are not the problem. Of course, you already knew that, if you read this column regularly. Now you have the facts to prove it.
My thanks go to the Department of Public Safety for providing the statistics, which represent the period from January 1998 through August 1999.
Copyright 1999 by Ralph D. Sherman