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Letter to the Editor: Town Manager Calls for Stronger Gun Permit Requirements

In a letter to local state reps, Tolland Town Manager Steven Werbner said that he would like documentation from mental health professionals for gun permits.

To all:  Obviously the events of December 14 have left us all in an emotional state.  Much debate will ensue once again on steps that can be taken to possibly prevent such horrific acts in the future.  The debate if like past debates will be lengthy with the end result being little progress.

Many people say the problem is so complex and multi-faceted that every suggestion for change is discounted because it cannot be shown to prevent, in its entirety, the concern at hand. It is true that there is not just one action that can be taken to prevent these types of mass killings as well as the murders that take place in our country on a daily basis from the use of guns, but does that mean that we should take no action , small as it may be , to in somehow stem the tide of these senseless murders.   

Bans on assault weapons are in my mind a no brainer as well as limits on the number of multi clips that can be purchased.  My concern however is more fundamental.

As CEO of the Town I am inserted into the gun permitting process. An individual secures a permit form  from the Resident Troopers Office.  The Resident Troopers do a criminal background check and then pass the application form to me for final signature with their recommendation.

The form merely requires some assertions on the individuals behalf such as that they have no mental health issues, current residence etc.  No supporting documentation is required from a licensed mental health provider, no information is required as to who else lives in the household of the applicant and whether any individuals currently living in the household have mental health issues, no information is required on how the guns will be secured while in the home, and of course no information is required on the type of gun(s) that are going to be purchased or their intended use.   

In addition once the permit is issued to the best of my knowledge there is no re-permitting required for either time or changed circumstances.  So, as the Town Official required to sign off on these most important permits I do so with just the affirmation of the individual and with no real knowledge as to the suitability of the applicant for such a permit.

Contrast this process with the one my daughter recently had to go through to study abroad where I had to get for her a certified letter from a mental health provider that she was of sound mind and body to enter their country and university. I am not looking to get out in front of the gun control issue, but I think as the permitting process stands today it is impossible for me to sign off on permits with any sense of confidence that the person receiving the permit is capable of using a firearm safely and in accordance with the law. 

The easy way out for some is to see if this entire function can be delegated to the Resident State Troopers Office and leave the Chief Executive out of the process.  That may make me feel better if that is possible but that does nothing to improve the system and perhaps prevent one senseless injury or even worse a death in Tolland or the rest of the state.

I would ask that you as State leaders look closely at the permitting process over the next few months and make it a priority to enhance process by in the very least requiring that each applicant provide a certified statement from a licensed mental health provider that the applicant is of sound mind and body to own and operate a firearm and that there is no one currently residing in the household of the applicant who has any known mental health issues. 

Furthermore there should be a requirement that each applicant secure and provide proof that they have an appropriate lock  box to store the weapon(s) in the household. Others may have ideas as well as to how the process can be enhanced as well  so discussion with police officials and Town Officials on this topic would certainly be appropriate.  CCM has recently approved a motion to study this issue as well as others related to gun enforcement.  

In the meantime, until there is some change in the process, I have asked the Town Attorney to research whether I can deny permits for lack of suitable information and require that each applicant request a hearing  before the state who could then issue the permit under their authority.  Please contact me if you would like to discuss this issue further. 

Steve Werbner

Miss Mary Mack December 20, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I think you'd probably be in violation of state laws should you decide to do it any differently
Craig Bassett December 20, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Before wholesale changes are made (I'm not opposed to the mental health checks) there need to be standards set for the mental health professional to make this judgement otherwise a health professional that is against guns may use their personal opinion on guns to deny the permit. Keep in mind that, through this whole process of increasing the requirements of permit applicants, we cannot deny their constitutional rights without due process. There is also the state laws around long guns that I dont believe sets a minumum age for possession. If that is the case, then your changes would not have prevented the type of horror that occurred in Newtown, if in fact the killings occurred with the .223 rifle, unless the shooter was actually diagnosed with mental health problems. Again, how would the State Police or the Town manager know of this diagnosis considering HIIPA laws prevent the disclosure of these things. Certainly, a detailed discussion should take place on this topic.
Tim December 20, 2012 at 05:49 PM
A magazine is what is used to feed the weapon itself, whereas a clip is used to feed the magazine. Clips make loading of magazines much easier and faster, and in some cases, a clip is required in order for the magazine to work (e.g. M1 Garand). As a town administrator you should be probably do some adequate research before using gun terminology that you don't know what means. Last time I checked Tolland isn't in the hood and we don't use "clips" Just my 2 cents.
Eveline December 20, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I applaud the town manager for writing this excellent letter.
Another Tolland Resident December 20, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Mr. Werbner, You made some excellent points here and I look forward to a comprehensive discussion at the local, state and federal level. Its clear that constitutional rights must be preserved, but we also must ensure public safety for all citizens. I hope that through active discussions and some compromises on all sides, a workable solution can be reached that will improve the safety for everyone!
A Tolland Resident December 20, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I think that this is an excellent letter but, I do have some points/questions. Why are you only going after people that are looking for pistol permits? You don't address long-guns at all. Why require a lock-box for a firearm? Wouldn't a simply trigger-lock be appropriate for all firearms that are in a house that has children living in it? If you don't have children in your home, why require locks at all? Who would do these home-inspections? I'm sure that they wouldn't be free. Lastly, why penalize the people that are going through legal channels for a pistol permit? I'm glad that I have already received my permit through the town of Tolland. It seems that all pistol permits from here on in will be either denied or tied up into a bureaucratic nightmare.
Emily December 20, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Can i still shoot in my backyard?
Lisa G December 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I am speaking as a parent of 2, and a .22 bolt action rifle owner that has probably been fired 10 times. Let's support more stringent steps to obtain permits, guns and ammunition for them. I would think it would only be beneficial to make the process more lengthy and difficult. Why would anyone need to have a gun permit/gun/ammo quickly? I don't know how long it takes now, but what if it took a few or even 6 months, to a year? That isn't penalizing anyone if it becomes a standard. I think we know that someone with bad intentions would perhaps be doing so in haste, whereas someone looking to do so for sport or protection would be fine with waiting until all the info is in. Who decides who is mentally stable, and how, is another story, and the means to do that could be a slippery slope...mental illness tragically carries a huge stigma, and it's important to assert that the info will be confidential. Mr. Werbner, I can certainly see how signing off on something so serious would give you pause. I think we can forgive those who don't have a full and complete gun vocabulary...I hope I speak for at least a few others when I say that owning a gun that shoots anything more than one bullet at a time seems unnecessary and fraught with potentially dangerous consequences. One idea would be to only allow those types of firearms at shooting ranges and those who feel strongly enough about shooting them can pay a fee to go there. Awaiting the statement from the NRA tomorrow...
Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 12:50 AM
While I’m happy that Mr. Werbner decided to open the conversation around gun permitting, I am concerned that he is portraying the process to obtain a permit as easy and lacking critical review by himself and the resident state troopers office. By his own words he feels that “it is impossible for me to sign off on permits with any sense of confidence that the person receiving the permit is capable of using a firearm safely and in accordance with the law.“ As you will see from my explanation below, he should have some confidence in the process that is taking place within his own town. On the news today they mentioned that CT has the 5th strongest gun laws in the nation. I feel that at a minimum I should explain the permitting process so residents are aware of the steps.
Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 12:51 AM
First let’s be clear. The town’s responsibility for permitting is for pistol permits only and it is a temporary permit. There is no “rifle” permit in the state that I’m aware of. Rifles/Shotguns can be obtained by having a hunting license which requires the licensee to first undergo a 2 day class which covers safe use and storage of a firearm, ethical hunting practices, and a variety of other topics all revolving around safety. Each participant must take a test that has about 100 questions on it and must score well enough to be issued a hunting license. I believe it took about 4 weeks after taking the exam to get my hunting license. Once you have a hunting license you can then go to a retailer and purchase a rifle. At point of purchase they do a background check with the state which takes about an hour and then you can purchase the firearm. In lieu of a hunting license you can use a pistol permit (see below) or there is a 2 week waiting period.
Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Pistol permits are where the town comes in. First, the permittee must go through a 1-2 day safety course with a certified pistol instructor which runs in the area of $80-$100. The course covers safe usage and storage of firearms as well as the CT laws concerning them (carrying/transporting/etc.) Range time with the instructor is also required. At the end of the class the permittee must pass a written exam in order to get a certificate of completion. Next that person must go to the town and obtain an application for a pistol permit. Along with that the individual must go to the state police barracks and be fingerprinted by both the State and FBI which costs around $20 plus $50 for the background check. Once you do that then you bring your completed application, fingerprints, pistol course certificate, check for $70, and many forms of ID to the resident state troopers office. The office takes your packet and then you wait. About a month or two later you get a call from the resident state troopers office asking you to come in for an interview. You sit down with the Sgt. for about an hour and he asks several questions.
Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 12:52 AM
If everything is okay then the application for the permit goes to Mr. Werbner for signature. Once it is signed the permittee is issued a temporary 30 day permit that can be used to obtain a pistol and bring directly home where it must stay, or the permittee can go to the state police office in Wethersfield to obtain a permit to carry. To get the permit to carry you have to pay $70. Once you have that permit you can go to a retailer and purchase a firearm (rifle or pistol) where they again do a background check and lots of paperwork before they are allowed to sell to you. The permit to carry is good for 5 years and then must be renewed by the State.
Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 12:52 AM
As you can see from above, the process involving the town is quite extensive and involves numerous checks and interviews in order to obtain a pistol permit. I feel that Mr. Werbner’s attempt to deny all permit applications will result in all Tolland residents being unable to obtain a pistol permit. If Mr. Werbner is truly interested in having a conversation about improving the gun permitting process in town then perhaps he should openly meet with residents or members of local sportsman clubs who are knowledgeable in that area in order for them to offer up constructive ideas for improving and safeguarding the process.
chris tine December 21, 2012 at 01:28 AM
The idea of an applicant for a pistol permit having to obtain a statement from a mental health provider that a person who wants to own a pistol is of sound mind is a feel-good, but ineffective idea. Let's apply this standard to a person buying a car to see if they might speed or drive drunk. How about the purchase of a baseball bat or a knife? Sneakers! People get into brawls buying those. Why the sudden guilt trip about collecting a fee for doing nothing? You can't legislate morality.
A Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Lisa - I am a target shooter. I own several pistols, revolvers, rifles &, shotguns. All of my firearms have either trigger guards or are in a lock box. I pay a hefty fee to a local gun range use my firearms to shoot at targets. During hunting season, I participate in both shotgun and black-powder seasons. I also have a concealed carry permit and I utilize this permit where I legally can. Why should I pay more money or wait longer to go put holes in paper. I pay a lot of money already to the state for licenses and tags. Why should I pay more?
A Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Well said! All of this is just a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy. We need to slow-down, mourn the dead, celebrate the living and then... lets talk about how do we prevent this from happening again.
Lisa G December 21, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Sorry, but owning a gun is not a necessity like owning sneakers or a car. Unfortunately, the actions of Adam Lanza have ruined it for those want to own certain weapons. We've seen it over and over. It's just too easy to kill someone with a gun. What is wrong with making it more difficult to obtain, or banning certain weapons from ever being sold?
chris tine December 21, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Random mass killings were three times more common in the 2000s than in the 1980s, when gun laws were actually weaker. Laws deter the law abiding. It can not deter evil, madness and mobsters.
A Tolland Resident December 21, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Lisa G. - You don't need to own a car or sneakers. You don't need to have kids or get your hair done. Can you elaborate on exactly which weapons you mean in your "Adam Lanza ruined it" comment? You are extrapolating 2 handguns and a AR style rifle to every firearm. Please also keep in mind that Lanza STOLE the weapons from his mother. hey were not legally owned.
Lisa G December 22, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Nancy Lanza was an irresponsible gun owner. Think there might be more like her out there?
Mike December 22, 2012 at 08:55 PM
People on both sides of the gun control issue have valid points for their passionate stances. Instead of arguing about our opinions on the way things are at the present time, does anyone have any suggestions as to how things should change so this violent nonsense can be stopped?

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