NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Applications for gun permits have jumped in Newtown since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which sparked a renewed debate about stricter gun control laws and a surge in gun sales around the country due to worries about new limits.
Newtown in recent years has issued about 130 gun permits annually. Police say the town received 79 permit applications in the three months since the Dec. 14 massacre, well over double the normal pace.
“A good percentage of people are making it clear they think their rights are going to be taken away,” said Robert Berkins, records manager for Newtown police.
The increase in applications in Newtown came as firearms sales surged around the country driven by Washington’s new focus on gun control.
Both sides of the debate have been well represented in Newtown, a town of about 27,000. The horror of the massacre inspired a groundswell of gun violence-prevention activism by new, local organizations such as Sandy Hook Promise and Newtown Action Alliance.
But gun ownership has long been a way of life in Newtown, which is home to the National Shooting Sports Foundation trade association.
A spike in complaints in recent years related to gunshots, primarily about noise and fear of shots being fired, led the police commission to propose an ordinance limiting when guns can be discharged and establishing a process for the police chief to approve shooting ranges, according to Joel Faxon, a police commission member.
Gun applicants traditionally involved hunters, target shooters and business owners, but now police are seeing a wider variety of applicants, Berkins said. Some said they never thought about getting a gun but heard their right to have one is going to be taken away, he said.