County clerks swamped with gun questions

The Franklin and Essex county clerks’ offices have been inundated with calls about what will change with the state’s new gun law.

New York’s SAFE Act, an acronym for Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement, tightens restrictions on gun laws. It was pushed through the state Legislature on Jan. 15, making New York the first state to enact such legislation after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December.

Acting Franklin County Clerk Kip Cassavaw told county legislators last week that his office has been busy with people who have been applying for pistol permits.

“We’re having quite a run on applications,” Cassavaw said. “Our office has been extremely busy.”

There are currently about 6,500 active gun licenses in the clerk’s records, and Cassavaw said he’s passing out five to 10 applications a day, so he anticipates that number growing.

His office has also been hearing from many people who have questions about the law.

“We’re fielding 100 phone calls a day regarding what’s legal, what’s not legal and so forth,” Cassavaw said.

They’re mostly referring questions to the state police, he said, but he anticipates the calls, questions and applications to keep coming for a while.

“It’s going to be a big deal,” Cassavaw said. “It’s going to be a lot more traffic in our office.”

He said it has yet to be seen how much of the background check and gun application work will actually fall to the county clerk’s office. Under the law, state police are supposed to deal with most of the new regulations, but if too much of it falls on the county clerks’ offices, he may need to add an employee. That could add up to another unfunded state mandate.

The Essex County clerk’s office has also been swamped with questions about the new gun law, and applications for gun permits have increased dramatically. Deputy Clerk Nancy McLean said calls about the new law have been “numerous and constant.

“They’re wanting us to interpret the law, or they’re coming in and wanting us to interpret the law,” she said. “And we’ve advised them that as soon as we know how the law is going to work, that we’ll put something in the paper, on radio and TV.”

McLean said applications for firearm permits are “flying out the window.”

Asked to estimate how many calls for information on the new law the clerk’s office has received daily, McLean said, “We’re probably getting a dozen calls a day.

“And I don’t take them all,” she said. “I’m ballparking.”

McLean said between eight and 10 applications for firearm permits have been doled out daily since the law took effect. That’s a big increase, she said.

“They’re buying firearms like crazy,” she said.