After more than nine months of processing and a little help from local gun clubs, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office has finally cleared its backlog of pistol permit applications.
Sheriff Michael Zurlo said his staff has sifted through roughly 400 applications so far this year and have overcome any delay created after the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act was signed into law in January 2013. He said added clerical staff and assistance from professionally certified instructors at local sportsmen clubs has help the department keep up with the persistent stream of new applicants.
Zurlo said a pair of clerks added to his office helped with the paperwork, but the backlog continued because only the sheriff’s department was offering training classes. Once he began partnering with gun clubs in Clifton Park and Greenfield, that helped prospective permit holders land spots in a matter of days rather than weeks or even months.
“By partnering with local sportsmen clubs and professionally certified instructors, we are now able to offer additional safety courses throughout the county for those who are interested,” he said. “This allows our staff to process permits more expeditiously.”
The result is that a permit that once took upward of a year to secure can now be processed in around three months. In 2013, when a record 1,048 people applied for permits, the wait time was estimated to be in excess of a year, Zurlo said.
“We streamlined it now, and it works well,” he said.
The sheriff’s department was prompted to hire two additional civil clerks this year as certain provisions of the SAFE Act kicked in. These include a requirement that existing pistol permits be renewed every five years and that mental health professionals report gun owners they feel may be dangerous.
With a population of more than 224,000 people, Saratoga County now has close to 20,000 pistol permit holders, according to figures provided by the sheriff’s department. Zurlo said new applications continue to roll in at a steady pace, but not as feverish as a year ago.
In neighboring Schenectady County, Sheriff Dominic Dagostino continues to have only one deputy assigned to permit applications. While the deputy is able to keep up with the applications, he said there seems to be no end to the number of people seeking them.
“We had that initial spike [after the SAFE Act passed], and we’ve maintained that level,” he said. “It’s quite a bit of work.”
Like Saratoga County, Dagostino said he relies on private instructors to provide the necessary training. Despite the constant surge of applicants, he said there doesn’t appear to be any backlog.
“We haven’t had any issue with anybody getting boxed out,” he said.
To the west, in Montgomery County, Sheriff Michael Amato said pistol permit applications remain strong, but they’ve created no backlog yet. The steady influx of applicants has forced the department to streamline the process online so Amato’s deputies don’t have to spend as much time shuffling paper.
“We learned to be a little bit smarter to make the process a little quicker,” he said.
Before the SAFE Act, Amato said his department would process about 50 permits annually. Now, he said they go through about 20 permits per month and fill training classes every other month.
“People are worried about losing their rights,” he said. “That’s what they say to us coming into these classes.”