Saratoga County Sheriff James D. Bowen will be allowed to hire another civil clerk to help the Sheriff’s Department deal with a backlog of pistol permit applications attributed to the NY SAFE Act.
The Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee on Tuesday authorized Bowen to fill a vacant position in his civil office to help deal with more than 600 pending pistol permit applications.
“We’re trying to get the backlog reduced, and we’re falling further behind,” Bowen told the committee, which met in Ballston Spa.
Saratoga, like counties across the state, has seen a rush of people applying for pistol permits in response to the state Legislature’s passage in December of the SAFE Act, which continues tough new gun control measures. That’s putting a strain on those who process the applications, and has led to applicants being given appointments to have their paperwork processed well into 2014.
“It’s becoming more and more of a problem for the county,” said committee Chairwoman Mindy Wormuth, R-Halfmoon, who reported fielding a number of complaints from residents.
People who want a pistol permit must fill out an application with the Sheriff’s Department, make an appointment to have their background checked and fingerprints taken, take a safety class, and then have the information submitted to a judge, who approves or rejects the application.
Bowen said the department’s Civil Office normally processes about 18 permit applications a week, but is falling behind at that pace. He said applicants are now being told they may not receive a decision until August 2014.
“People are feeling stalled off,” Wormuth said.
The department has customarily processed applications two days a week, but Bowen said that needs to be increased to five days.
“This will help,” he said of the new clerk.
More than 16,000 county residents hold pistol permits, Bowen estimated.
The sheriff said he’ll also be asking for funding for two more civil clerks in 2014, as additional provisions of the SAFE Act kick in. These include a new requirement that existing pistol permits be renewed every five years and that mental health professionals report gun owners they feel may be dangerous. Using that database, police will eventually need to take guns from those deemed dangerous by a judge,
“This is going to be a nightmare for the people of New York,” said Bowen, who like the rest of the county’s top leadership is a Republican.
“This is just another mandate handed down by the state of New York,” said committee member John Lawler, R-Waterford.
The strongest advocates for the SAFE Act — which has outraged gun advocates across the state — have been Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other Democrats.