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Gun permit applications quadruple in Wolfeboro

Special to the Union Leader

March 07. 2013 12:52AM

WOLFEBORO - The Wolfeboro Police Department has experienced a stunning increase in the number of pistol permit applications.

Police Chief Stuart Chase recently told the Police Commission that the number of pistol/revolver license applications has quadrupled in the first month of 2013, compared with last year's monthly average. In January alone, the department received 48 pistol/revolver permit applications while in an average month the department processes between 10 and 12.

On Wednesday, Chase said the increase in applications translates to more work for officers who do the "footwork" and review the paperwork, but that so far the department is able to comply with the two-week turnaround time required by the state.

Speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the department, Chase said the increase may be a "knee jerk" reaction to the political debate over gun control, and perhaps the perception by some that gun rights will be hindered.

"I think people are afraid their right to have a firearm will be taken away; that's the general fear," he said, adding that many people arm themselves for protection.

Chase, who worked as a police officer in Massachusetts for 35 years, including as a police chief in Danvers, said gun permits are simpler to acquire in New Hampshire than in Massachusetts.

"I worked in Massachusetts for 35 years and the laws on obtaining a license there are prohibitive; here, we are far more in tune with (Second Amendment) legal rights. It's easier to be licensed," he said. "Here, the application is short and sweet."

Not too short, however. He said applicants are subject to a background check, reviewed through the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) database, and are required to provide three references. In some cases, the department may have personal knowledge of the applicant.

"We can rely on our own records, local knowledge and unofficial sources. Generally, in a community this size, it's not difficult to make a determination as to suitability," he added.

The pistol/revolver permit asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony; is a user or addicted to any controlled substance; has ever been deemed mentally defective by a court or committed to a mental institution; and whether the applicant has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor of domestic violence. The last question asks why the applicant wants to carry a pistol in New Hampshire.

The license fee is $10 for residents, and $100 for non-residents. The license is required to carry a loaded pistol or revolver in a motor vehicle or to carry a concealed loaded pistol or revolver.

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