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State police address gun-permit backlog

Just in time for Independence Day, the Indiana State Police have announced they are dedicating additional employees to processing requests for handgun permits.

Last month we wrote about what has become a long wait for handgun permits after being contacted by a retired firefighter who has held a gun permit for 30 years and lived in the same house for 40 years. He complained that he had been waiting since October to have his permit renewed. It normally took about three weeks, he said.

At the time, a state police spokesman attributed the backlog to a spike in permit requests, likely the result of a push to increase gun restrictions after several mass shootings around the country.

In a news release issued this week, the state police spelled out just what kind of surge in gun permit requests is taking place.

In all of 2012, the release said, there were only 60,906 requests for gun permits. That’s an average of about 5,000 a month. In December 2012, though, the number of applications jumped to 13,954. And in January, there were 23,079 applications, well more than four times the normal number of permits.

From December 2012 through last month 91,940 people had applied for permits, 50 percent more than had applied for permits in all of 2012.

At the time, the state police said they couldn’t justify increasing their staff to handle permit requests because it takes substantial training to do the job and after the spike in permit requests subsided, they’d be stuck with excess employees.

By June, though, even though requests for permits were beginning to taper off, the state police had a backlog of 45,000 applications, the equivalent of nine months’ worth of applications during normal times, and the processing time was expected to take 110 days.

State police offered some explanation for additional causes for the backlog.

For one, some permit applications have been incomplete. Applications for permits must be accompanied by fingerprints, but hand-rolled prints on paper take longer to handle and, as with any paper records, things sometimes get misplaced.

The state police recommend that people have their fingerprints submitted electronically, which can be done by a company called MorphoTrust, which has offices in Fort Wayne and most surrounding counties.

It also can take longer to do criminal background checks on people with common names.

The state police said the current backlog should be eliminated in eight to 10 weeks and that by September, all new applications for permits should be processed within 60 days.

As of the beginning of July, 493,205 people had permits to carry handguns in the state, not including pending applications for permits.

As for our retired firefighter, it’s not clear whether his permit has been approved or not.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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