Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

April 10, 2014

Run on gun licenses: Police need help as gun applications pile up

Police seek help with applications

Andover residents are going gun-crazy.

That’s the word from the Police Department, which this week won approval from the Board of Selectmen to create a full-time position to handle the rise in gun permit applications.

“In 2009, we processed 82 firearm licenses,” police Commander Charles Heseltine said. “That includes renewals and requests for new ones. In 2013, we had 456.”

The town now has about 1,600 residents who are officially licensed to carry guns, Heseltine said.

The rising interest is not just a local trend. In fact, while gun permit ownership increased about 9 percent last year in Andover, it went up by 29 percent in Everett and 17 percent in Winthrop, according to figures from the Mass. Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

The statewide rise in gun ownership mirrors a nationwide trend of people getting permits out of fear that firearms laws are about to change.

“What we get is many people saying they’re coming in from the recent gun regulations,” Heseltine said. “There has been a huge uptick in that, and people are worried the laws will change and they’ll be unable to purchase firearms.”

Police chiefs have more power than ever in assessing prospective gun owners.

One question that often comes up when police departments sit down with permit applicants is why they’re getting a license.

“They would say they want it for home safety — primarily they won’t keep the weapon on the person, but they want it for their home,” Heseltine said.

More women are seeking applications than in the past as well.

Terrel Harris, spokesman for the state’s Office of Public Safety and Security, says the recent surge being felt in Massachusetts has been caused by a bubble of expiring licenses that pops up every six years since licenses are no longer issued for life.

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