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Pistol permits on Shelter Island

As applications for pistol permits have surged on Long Island and around the country, Shelter Island applications have been rising steadily over the last several years.

According to the Shelter Island Police Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office processed 83 pistol licenses for residents here last year, and 78 so far in 2021. The number last year was one shy of the highest number — 84 — since 2016, when 76 licenses were held.

Permits are required only for pistols. Numerous Island residents own shotguns and other long guns for hunting.

According to Newsday, which contacted Long Island police departments, in 2019 Nassau County had 2,246 permit applications processed; by Nov. 1, 2020, that number had spiked to 4,046. In Suffolk County, 2,338 applications were booked in 2019, and 5,690 as of Dec. 1, 2020.

The Firearm Industry Trade Association reported that “record-setting gun sales has been the story of 2020. The surge in sales has also revealed a diversifying gun-owning population in America, with women and minorities comprising large percentages of buyers. Firearm retailer survey data show handgun purchases were by far the most common among buyers, and reasons of personal protection drove sales across all categories of firearms.”

The trade association said 40% of the 15.7 million purchases last year — a record for the industry — were first-time buyers.

The reasons for the surge in gun sales are complicated, according to Julia Schleimer, a data analyst at the Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis. “It’s a real challenge to try and disentangle the role of any one single potential cause,” the analyst said. “It’s particularly challenging during the pandemic,” and cited the stress of mass unemployment and many school districts closing in-person teaching.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in the United States in 2020 there were a total of more than 39,707 deaths from guns, of which more than 24,000 were suicides.

Free gun locks and gun safety information from Project ChildSafe — a nonprofit emphasizing gun and training — are available at Shelter Island Police Department headquarters.

While providing the gun locks for pistols, shotguns and rifles, police and the ChildSafe Project stress that no firearm safety or lock can be a substitute for safe, careful gun handling and storage. The lock is intended to discourage unauthorized access, particularly by children.

The Project’s literature stresses that nearly all firearm accidents in the home can be prevented simply by making sure that guns are kept unloaded and locked up, with ammunition stored in a separate location.

It’s the gun owner’s responsibility to store guns, the Project emphasizes, in such a way that children cannot get access to them. Hiding a gun in a closet, drawer or similar location is not considered safe storage, particularly because children are curious and may find a gun that was believed safely hidden in the home.

In addition to the cable locks, other safety options include a trigger lock, lock box, gun safe and disassembling the guns when storing.