A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes,
After a spree shooting I know there is a reigniting of the gun “control” debate for some. Let me tell a story of what happened to me a couple of years ago. Some of my friends may be familiar with this story. I currently reside in Connecticut and work at a nuclear power plant as an armed security officer. As such, I need a state gun permit allowing me to use firearms and open carry on the site of the power plant. As to my background . . .
I served sixteen honorable years of active and reserve time in the Marines prior to this job. I was trained and handled weapons all during that time, qualifying as a rifle expert multiple times, pistol sharpshooter, and trained on explosives and bunker-buster munitions as an anti-tank assaultman in the infantry. At one point I had a top secret SCI clearance for my military specialty and deployed in the late 1990’s to Japan and in the Mediterranean and after 9/11 to the Mideast and Iraq. I have a Bachelor’s degree and my worst criminal infractions are speeding tickets going between Camp Lejeune and New Jersey in the nineties.
I grew up in New Jersey and had a permit for long guns as I owned a shotgun, but never really used it much. But when I finished college at the end of 2010 I decided to move in with my future wife in Connecticut. After finding and then being hired for the job at the power plant I was told I’d have to apply for a Connecticut gun permit which I did soon after Independence Day 2011. And that’s when the games began . . .
I was surprised to find out after moving here that Connecticut is a “shall-issue” state with one permit. Unlike New Jersey or other states, that single permit allows you to carry long guns, pistols, even concealed or open carry.
You apply at your town’s police department where they do a check and if your background is clean then they are obligated to issue you a temporary permit. You take that temp permit to the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection where they issue the multi-year state permit. The town is the big hurdle in the process; no one I know of has been denied a state permit after receiving a temporary permit.
There were moments during my permit application process that first day that were surreal. Like when I was told by the office administrator that my military experience safely handling firearms as listed on my discharge papers “was not applicable” to firearms safety. Or that the background checks that the Navy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the public utility did on me in the past, all of which I passed, “. . . would actually be a bad thing. The state investigative agency will see all of those investigations, and do an even more thorough and lengthy background check.” These quotes were from the clerk working at the police station.
After about a month I wondered what was going on with my permit. I had not heard anything back from the police and a buddy of mine who was hired at the same time, but living in a different town had already received his temp permit. I began to grow concerned: Why is this taking so long? Will this affect my job?
The police had a problem with the certificate my company provided for the safety course I received while training at work. I ended up making two additional trips to the police station over what was a simple formatting issue with the document; not a problem with the content or failing to meet the state training minimums. I wondered to myself why they hadn’t explained to me the right format in the first place.
After about two months I would call every two to three weeks or drop by, always politely asking what the status was on my permit. Every single time I felt like I had to explain that this was related to my new job, the one that requires I carry a gun.
Now before anyone says I should have made an issue of the town dragging its feet, please keep in mind this was for my job, a good, well-paying job. Since the training took a few months I wasn’t losing any money (yet) due to this process. And people at work told me that my town had a reputation for taking its sweet time with issuing new firearm permits or doing renewals. Great.
One reason the town said it was taking so long was tropical storm Irene and the subsequent four-day blackout in October. Another time it was that the one (and only) person who needed to review the permit at that stage was on vacation, and no one in the building knew when he would be back. Yet another time at the start of December the reason was end-of-year budget meetings. After Christmas I was told by a city employee that “no one told me this was for your job.” Really?
My brother-in-law had been on the town council a couple of years earlier. He sent an email on my behalf to the police chief around this time to try to expedite things. Maybe that did the trick, or maybe it was because we were reaching the six month mark. I don’t know but finally they had my temp permit ready.
On the day when I finally picked up my permit in January, 2012 I was quizzed from across the desk by a police officer on my name, birth date, height, and other vital stats – even when the person quizzing me was holding my driver’s license and passport and could see photos of me on both of them.
And yes, names/titles have been left out to protect the city employees. Remember, I began this process around July 4th of 2011. I wonder how long it would have taken for me to get a gun permit were it not work-related. As it stood, I had a six month waiting period imposed on me just to get the permit. And since there is no alternative, you basically have to shut up and take this nonsense, lest you annoy some government bureaucrat.
Notice too, all of this happened before the Newtown shooting in my state.
The point of all this is that I’m a firm believer that “control” of guns isn’t lax from where I stand. The problem, like at the Navy Yard, Fort Hood, and Aurora is that the shooters — in spite of what any sane person would call “red flags” — were still able to legally buy firearms because those same red flags were never acted on or put in a permanent record. Everything I’ve read about these tragedies points to this: no one wants to make the tough judgment call that may end someone’s career or put them in jail. Laws about background checks, mental health, and waiting periods for firearms are worthless if nothing is ever red flagged by authorities.
In a way, the town’s games backfired on them. Prior to this episode I wasn’t a passionate Second Amendment supporter. Now I am.