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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

November 1997

Is there a residency requirement for pistol permits?

The Superior Court issued a decision in September that is troubling for anyone applying for a local (town) pistol permit.

The case began when a woman named Susan Tirrell applied to the town of West Hartford for a pistol permit. She was denied, and she appealed to the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners. The board ruled against her, finding that she was not a "suitable person" as required by Section 29-28(b) of the General Statutes. Tirrell appealed to the Superior Court, asking the court to overturn the board’s decision.

But the court never ruled on the question of whether the board had acted correctly. Instead, Judge Maloney simply decided that because Tirrell had moved from West Hartford some time after she applied for the permit, she was disqualified for not being a resident of the town.

I don’t think I am alone in questioning the court decision.

Section 29-28(b) is the only part of the statutes that discusses residency of the applicant. The statute says, "Upon the application of any person having a bona fide residence or place of business within the jurisdiction" of the local chief of police or first selectman, a permit may be issued. The statute doesn’t say, or even imply, that the applicant must stay in the same town during the application process, let alone during any appeal to the board or the court.

But by Judge Maloney’s reasoning, any applicant who relocates before a final decision is made must start all over. The decision is especially disturbing because this is not the way the board has operated in previous cases. In this case, however, the board is not likely to appeal the court decision, because the effect of the court ruling was to uphold the board (by denying Tirrell her permit).

The court decision raises many questions. Here’s one: Suppose a person resides in Town X and applies there for a local permit. Two months later the application is denied by the chief of police. The applicant appeals to the board. Three months later the board decides in favor of the applicant and orders the chief to issue the permit. The chief does nothing. One month later the board obtains a court order that says that the chief must issue the permit by a certain date or go to jail for contempt of court. One day before that certain date, the applicant moves to Town Z. Judge Maloney presumably would say that the Town X chief no longer needs to issue the permit.

In Connecticut and in the United States, people are free to live where they choose. Often the choice to relocate is based on the loss of an old job, the gaining of a new one, the expiration of a lease, or a change in income (for better or worse). It’s hard to see why the legislature would intend to disqualify an applicant for this reason. It’s also hard to see where the statute says the applicant is in fact disqualified.

Copyright 1997 by Ralph D. Sherman

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