In the wake of the Newtown school shooting, the Journal News of New York published an article and interactive maps including the names and addresses of Westchester and Rockland county gun owners. It prompted outrage from some readers, while others appreciated the information.
The controversial decision by the newspaper may have some wondering why no Connecticut news outlet has attempted to replicate the story for readers in the Nutmeg state.
The answer is simple: the names and addresses of people issued gun permits in Connecticut are confidential, unless that person was denied a permit to carry a gun.
In July 1994, during a special session, the General Assembly exempted gun permit information from public disclosure.
Michael P. Lawlor, the governor’s top criminal justice adviser who was a lawmaker involved in the 1994 discussions, said the disclosure of gun permit information was a trade-off they made with the pro-gun legislators and lobbyists in order to get the bill passed.
In addition to exempting the information from public disclosure, the underlying legislation made it harder for convicted felons to obtain firearms and gave the commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services access to gun permit information.
Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven said he understands the arguments regarding confidentiality, but believes it’s something that should be debated next year.
“The argument from gun owners is that potential thieves would know where to find a gun,” Looney said.
On the other side of the argument, “people have said they would like to know if there’s a gun in the house where they’re sending their children to play,” he said.
There are currently 179,092 valid pistol permits in Connecticut, 8,825 registered assault weapons, and 2,304 registered machine guns, according to the Connecticut State Police.
“It’s probably a policy discussion worth having,” Looney said.
But Robert Crook, head of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, said he doesn’t believe it should be part of the discussion.
“I’m happy the names can’t be released,” Crook said.
It would only make legal gun owners targets, and “virtually every instance of gun violence is being done by a person without a pistol permit,” Crook added.
Rich Burgess, president of Connecticut Carry, agreed with Crook.
“I can’t think of any reasoning or logic that would make someone think that it would be a good idea to give potential criminals an idea of where to go (or not to go) based on where potential firearms exist,” he said.
Burgess wondered what good it would do to release the information.
“There are 170,000+ pistol permit holders in Connecticut and the vast, vast majority do nothing to harm anyone each day,” he said.
But Lawlor said in most states gun permit information, like personal information about divorces, mortgages, and property values, are public record.
Ron Pinciaro of Connecticut Against Gun Violence has been advocating for stricter gun laws in the state since 2001. He said making gun permit information public is not something his organization “would fight very hard for.” He said at this point he’s focused on other legislative solutions such as banning large capacity magazines like those with the capacity for 30 bullets that the gunman used in Newtown.
“Right, now we’re in the process of working on a lot of legislative solutions,” Pinciaro said.
In the meantime, there is some information out there about the number of gun permits in the state and how many exist in each particular municipality in any given year, but there’s not much information that can be gleaned from it aside from the fact that some towns have more gun permit holders than others.
In Newtown where the shooting occurred, there were 296 handguns and 237 long guns sold in 2012. In Monroe, which has about 8,000 fewer residents than Newtown, there were 253 handguns and 205 long guns sold in 2012
In New Haven, there were 472 handguns and 172 long gun sold this year and in Hartford there were 364 handguns and 146 long guns sold. In West Hartford there were 532 handguns sold and 283 long guns sold.
The state’s Board of Fire Arms Permit Examiners does provide a public record of the permit holders who have had their permits denied or revoked.
That list of names, and sometimes the town they live in, is on its website.