Pistol permit applications in Newtown skyrocketed in the five months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, exceeding the entire totals for both 2011 and 2012.
The jump in Newtown, where 20 first-graders and six women were shot and killed on Dec. 14, mirrors a statewide increase in the months following the shooting and as the legislature was debating tougher gun-control legislation.
Newtown residents applied for 183 permits from January through May of this year, a 110 percent increase from the same period last year. Newtown residents applied for 87 permits during those months in 2012. Connecticut towns award temporary permits. The state then awards the full permit.
Statewide, the number of new pistol permits issued by state police increased steeply beginning in March of 2013, reflecting a lag time after applications are submitted to local authorities. From March to September 2013, state police issued 18,233 new permits — a 78 percent increase from the same period in 2012.
New statewide permits peaked in July 2013, with 3,435 issued. By September, the number dropped to 2,089, but that figure was still higher than in any month before 2013.
Through October of this year, Newtown residents applied for 253 permits. Applications totaled 172 in 2012 and 99 in 2011. Applications must be approved by the local police chief. In Newtown this year, all but three were approved.
Town officials said they believe that the Dec. 14 school shooting played a role in the increase — as well as concerns over the likelihood of stricter gun control laws being passed as a result. Tougher laws were passed in April but did not go into effect until months later.
“Many people expressed their concerns even before the shooting that gun laws were going to change and there would be tighter restrictions on getting a gun permit,” said Newtown police records manager Robert Berkins.
The Newtown police department was so inundated with pistol permit applications after the shooting that town officials had to hire a part-time clerk to help process the paperwork.