Gun owners in Connecticut registered about 50,000 assault rifles before the Jan. 1 deadline, state public safety officials reported Friday as they drew close to completing the task of processing reams of related paperwork.
That rough estimate comes more than two weeks after the deadline to register banned rifles and ammunition magazines — steps required by last year’s gun control legislation passed in response to the Sandy Hook shooting.
The bill increased the number of guns prohibited in Connecticut and banned ammunition magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds. Residents who owned the newly-banned items before the law were required to register or declare them to the state prior to Jan. 1, if they wanted to keep them.
In the days leading up to the deadline, gun owners formed long lines outside state police offices to present the required documents in person. Others choose to mail the paperwork.
Since the beginning of the month it has been unclear exactly how many weapons and magazines were registered. Employees of Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and the State Police Special Licensing and Firearms Unit have been sorting through piles of declarations and registration applications, which were postmarked on or before Jan. 1, but continued to arrive in the days following the deadline.
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 9 — the end of the most recent reporting period — members of the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit were paid $8,078 in overtime compensation related to the project. That number is expected to rise when more recent pay data is reported.
On Friday, Scott DeVico, a legislative program manager and spokesman for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said hand counts indicate that gun owners registered 50,016 assault weapons and declared 38,290 ammunition magazines. He noted that the numbers could fluctuate and won’t be finalized until they’re entered into the department’s computer system.
It is also unclear how many gun owners own the banned weapons and magazines, but chose not to comply with the registration requirement.
Devico said processing the paperwork has been a big project, which the department successfully handled with the resources available to it.
“As evident by the long lines and the buckets of mail we received, this was a very big, but successful, process. The employees of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection take our responsibility of implementing the laws of the state of Connecticut very seriously and should be commended for the work they performed to implement this process,” DeVico said in an email.
The last minute push to comply with the new registration requirements is not the first time the department and the state police have been swamped with paperwork related to the 2013 gun control law. In May, a month after the bill passed, state police officials told lawmakers that their backlog for applications to transfer firearms had exploded from around 1,000 to 62,000.
At the time, Reuben Bradford, who is now the outgoing commissioner of the department, defended the speed at which his agency was handling the increased workload generated by the law.
“For the record, we are dealing with these backlogs with the same number of people. We’ve been given no additional help,” he said last year.
DeVico said the agency has since added personnel.
“We have hired 11 additional staff with additional positions approved and on the way. We are grateful for all of the resources given to us by [Gov. Dannel P. Malloy] and the Legislature to carry out the mission of the Department,” he said.