January 21, 2020

Gun permit delay annoys Brewer resident

Brewer resident Larry Folsom complained to members of the city council last week about the length of time it takes to receive a concealed weapons permit.

He said he applied for his concealed weapons permit 2 1/2 months ago, filled out the eight-page form required, but the police department doesn’t seem to be able to get any information back.

He said the police department goes through the State Bureau of Inspections in checking the background of applicants, but he maintained that was not a state requirement. He said information can be acquired from the veterans agencies and the motor vehicle department.

He said the SBI, the major holdup, claimed that they have had too many cuts in their department to respond as quickly as people would like. State statutes, he said, state they must respond with a report within 30 days.

Council Chairman Gerald Robertson asked Police Chief Eugene Fizell to comment on Folsom’s complaint.

Chief Fizell said the problem was a statewide issue. The State Bureau of Inspections claims it is behind in responses for a variety of reasons, including budget cuts, staff cuts, and furlough days, and that all their work is done manually. They have not converted to computer files.

Chief Fizell said that if an applicant’s employment depends on having a gun, such as in security work, and his job is being jeopardized by not getting the permit, they will put pressure on the SBI to provide the information.

While Folsom was correct in stating that the statutes do not specifically require that the towns use the SBI, all of the information that the state requires is held by the SBI, so they use the SBI in their background checks.

He said that where Folsom was just asking for new permit and did not qualify as one whose job would be jeopardized by not having one, he was being treated like everyone else who applied.

The police department is trying to treat all applicants the same. The periods between applying for the information and finally receiving it are getting longer and longer, said the chief.

Last year, he said, they issued two permits on a good-faith contingency, only to find out after the permits were issued that applicants had criminal records and the permits had to be tracked down and revoked. He doesn’t want to put the department through that again.

The department has to go by regulations set in Augusta, said the chief.

“To hell with Augusta,” said Councilor Paul Hatt. “We’re not interested in what Augusta tells us.” Hatt then told the chief to give Folsom a permit.

Chief Fizell explained that the state requires specific information before a permit can be issued, and even though it does, a lot of people still get by the screening process.

Folsom said he didn’t agree with the SBI staff explanations. All other state agencies have had cutbacks, he said, but they can still get information out to the public within a reasonable time.

Hatt suggested they send a letter to Augusta protesting the length of time it has taken for Folsom to get his permit. Chief Fizell said he would like to see the letter more broad-based in its request, not exclusively about Folsom.

Chairman Gerald Robertson that they should not only send a letter to SBI, but also write to the county legislative delegation and request action.

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