The tragic shootings at a Manchester liquor distributor raise the question: How hard is it to get a gun in Westport? It turns out, if your record is clean and you have the time and money, not that hard. "We have a prepared package for people to maintain their permits," said Westport Police Lt. Vincent Penna.
On Tuesday, Omar Thornton, 34, shot and killed eight co-workers at Hartford Distributors in Manchester before killing himself. Louis Felder, 50, of Stamford was killed in the attack. None of the rampage victims was known to be armed when Thornton began shooting. Jerome Rosenstein, 77, of West Hartford was critically injured trying to stop Thornton with the only weapon immediately available, a golf cart.
The town doesn't set the guidelines for purchasing or carrying a gun, it merely mirrors what the state Department of Public Safety puts out as the rules and regulations. According to Penna, there is a "pretty wide series of checks and balances" on the system.
Purchasing a pistol or revolver is the easier of the processes. Connecticut requires a permit to purchase, which is not the same as a permit to carry. To buy a gun legally, a resident needs to fill out an application, pay a fee, provide proof from a firearms safety certification course and submit state and federal fingerprints. Once the gun is bought, it can be kept at home without additional permits, according to Penna.
Carrying a firearm in public is a different matter. Residents can apply through their town's police department for a temporary state of Connecticut permit. Fees rack up to almost $200, some of which are refundable. The final say is up to the town's chief of police, though refusals can be contested.
Temporary permits expire after 60 days and can't be renewed. During that time frame the permit holder can apply for a regular five-year State of Connecticut permit. Penna is aware of how commonly guns are carried by the public. "We'll get a call or do a stop and discover a pistol and ask for the permit. It happens on a fairly regular basis," he said.
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