The number of residents registering firearms in Washington Township in 2013 nearly doubled 2012, a year that saw the largest amount in the town’s history.
As of Dec. 11, the day Patch obtained year-to-date figures from the Washington Township Police Department, a total of 497 permits were issued in 2013, with 51 more pending with the potential of being approved on or before Dec. 31.
Four identification cards and six permits were denied in 2013 as well.
In 2012, 301 permits were issued. This year, the township could see a potential total of 552. Just two years ago, 169 permits were issued – less than a third of what this year could end up with.
Patch reported on the uptick in mid-February 2013, when 53 permits had been issued as of Feb. 4 with another 96 pending. The rate of applications slowed beyond that, but still shattered the total number in previous years.
And while the uptick isn’t of concern to one daily gun-wielding member of the community, it’s the training – or lack thereof – that is.
“Everyone wants to look at gun control and ways to suppress that,” Washington Township Police Department Chief Michael Bailey said. “But what the legislation should do is require some kind of proficiency test. Users should know how to handle a gun, secure the gun and know how to shoot it.”
Bailey said it’s the residents’ right, of course, to own a weapon, but only needing a clean background doesn’t make someone ready or able to use a firearm.
“I would never want to curtail gun ownership, but it needs to be run properly,” he said.
Police officers, who carry a gun with them while on duty in their line of work, are required to pass two proficiency tests each year, Bailey said. The top cop likened the situation to a driving course.
“Provisional drivers pay to take six hours of driving lessons before they can get their license,” Bailey said. “It’s not a lot of time, but at least it’s something. All you need to own and use a gun is a clean background.”
Coincidentally – or not, depending on whom is asked – the record-setting uptick in gun registration (it’s not just in Washington Township, either: see our report on Mendham-Chester Patch) comes in the first full year after the tragic Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting.
On Dec. 14, 2012, a 20-year-old gunman named Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and went on a rampage killing 26 students and faculty members before turning the gun on himself.
In the time since, President Obama has signed legislation on tighter background checks for gun buyers and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law nearly a dozen new provisions on gun control in the state.
In that first report on Patch in February, Washington Township Mayor Ken Short said, “I think has a lot to do with talk of gun control laws. “People are probably thinking ‘let me get in before the laws change.’”
“Residents are concerned about the country
and where it may be going,” Short said. “There seems to be an uncertainty for
some people. [Residents] are finding it their personal responsibility, like
they need to defend their own turf.
Crime rates in Washington Township, according to the Uniform Crime Report database, from 2008 to 2011 did not jump or waver the same way gun registrations did.
Crime rates for the first nine months in 2013 actually went down, according to the New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Report.
What do you think of the jump in gun permits issued? Does it alarm you? Make you feel more secure?