On Feb. 1, it appears there will be tens of thousands of handgun owners in the region who will have violated a state law that required them to “recertify” their pistol permits.
A requirement of the 2012 SAFE Act gun law changes was that those who got their pistol permits before Jan. 15, 2013 recertify them by Jan. 31, 2018, and then do so every five years after that. The recertification process is free and requires gun owners to confirm pedigree information and details of the handguns they have, and it can be done online or by U.S. mail service.
State law makes those who don’t recertifiy guilty of a misdemeanor, but local sheriffs — whose agencies in most counties do background checks and other administration of pistol permits — say they will not be sending officers out to try to figure out who recertified and who didn’t.
Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said it appears many handgun owners are either waiting until the last minute or don’t plan to abide by the controversial requirement.
“Our office is not going to go look for people,” he said. “If the governor’s office wants to enforce it, they are going to have to turn it over to the State Police.”
A spokesman for the State Police, though, said this week that the agency doesn’t plan to send officers out to check on the permit holders who haven’t recertified, however.
Warren County Sheriff Bud York also said he has no intention to direct his staff to actively enforce this state-ordered requirement, as it would take a lot of manpower to track them down.
Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said his office not only doesn’t have manpower to go to the homes of permit holders, but also doesn’t have anywhere to keep the guns that could be confiscated.
Locally and across the state, counties are seeing an average of 25 percent to 33 percent response among permit holders.
Warren County Clerk Pam Vogel said 2,710 permit holders in Warren County had recertified as of Jan. 10, about 30 percent of the 7,000 or so who are required to, though she said there were likely some who mailed forms to the state that hadn’t been accounted for yet.
In Saratoga County, Zurlo said the number who had complied was 6,000 or so as of the end of this week.
“We have 16,000 or 17,000 that are still outstanding,” Zurlo said.
That is out of a total of 23,000 or so permits issued in the county, he added.
Murphy said he has told handgun owners who have asked him about recertification that he recommends that they do it.
Now, not all of the permit holders who haven’t recertified are likely law breakers.
Some of the permit holders may have died, may be in nursing homes or in other situations where they don’t know about or are unable to go through the recertification process.
With county clerk’s offices handling pistol permits in most counties, the New York State Association of County Clerks sent a letter to state officials late last month seeking guidance from the state as to issues such as enforcement of those who didn’t recertify.
Murphy said the recertification process has created a lot of confusion and work that wasn’t needed.
“There is already a good system in place. Why add a layer of redundancy?” Murphy asked.
State Police spokesman Beau Duffy said 250,279 permit holders had recertified as of Thursday afternoon. He said State Police were not releasing how many permits there are statewide, as it can’t vouch for the accuracy of the figure.
He said those who don’t recertify as of Jan. 31 can still do so after.
“We are continuing to accept recertifications after the deadline,” he said.
Duffy said there was no plan to send out officers to seek out the permit holders who didn’t recertify.
Those who “unknowingly” failed to certify won’t be prosecuted, but those who knew they should have gone through the process but didn’t “could be handled differently,” he explained.
Recertification forms and information can be found at troopers.ny.gov/Firearms/.