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Pistol license applications on the rise in Oneida County

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Pistol license applications are the hottest ticket in Oneida County. The number of pistol licenses issued in the county has grown from 343 in 2011 to 541 in 2012.

In 2011, 19% of the permits were issued to women; in 2012, women accounted for 34% of all new permit holders.

"Americans get a little leery, I think, when they think that their rights might be taken away from them," says Dan Sullivan, who attributes part of the meteoric rise of gun owners in the county to stricter gun control laws. Sullivan heads up Oneida County's pistol licensing office for county licensing officer Judge Michael Dwyer.

Sullivan doesn't have much down time in the office lately. "Historically there are about 18-25 guns registered daily. That number went up into the 40s. We're back to about 24-25 people daily," says Sullivan.

"You can't carry a police officer in your back pocket," says permit holder Michelle Bolinski. "I don't want to be left vulnerable, especially with small children at home."

It used to take two to four months to get a pistol license. That spiked to eight months, but has now come down to six to seven months. The process begins with a stampede of applicants at Gander Mountain in New Hartford Sunday mornings. The gun safety class is required to even get a pistol application. The application requires four references who have known you for five years or longer, are not related and who live in your county.

The background check is extensive and includes mental health and family court. Fingerprinting, paid for by the applicant, can cost more than $100. It's not just hunters and police officers who are willing to jump through these hoops in order to take advantage of the constitutional right afforded them by the Second Amendment.

"The picture of pistol license applicants and actual pistol license owners is not what I think the majority of people think. It is basically businessmen and women, middle class, upper middle class," says Sullivan.

Sullivan doesn't think a burgeoning number of gun owners is a bad thing.

"Pistol license holders are the safest aspect of society because they know if they screw up, they may lose this right to possess this handgun." Sullivan adds that he finds it frustrating that guns, rather than the criminals using them, are often blamed for gun crimes. He said, "Guns are the only inanimate object that is targeted whenever something goes wrong; they target the gun themselves and it's not the lawful gun owners."

Oneida County issues two basic types of pistol licenses: the sportsman(woman) license and the unrestricted license. An applicant has to make a compelling case for an unrestricted license. Sullivan says, on average, fewer than 10 of every 100 licenses issued are unrestricted.

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