AS QUESTIONS about gun rights swirl around the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice, and debate continues over attempts in Congress to make it easier to carry concealed weapons state-to-state, an increasing number of Long Islanders are applying for pistol permits.
The reasons? Those interviewed at local shooting ranges and gun shops say they are anxious about the possibility of stricter gun laws under a new administration, and about their personal safety in a weakened economy.
Their concerns about changes in the law were echoed recently by the National Rifle Association, which declared it may withdraw support from politicians who back Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court.
The NRA objects to Sotomayor's ruling as an appeals court judge that the Second Amendment prohibits only federal limits on the right to bear arms, not state curbs. The group said she has a "hostile view" toward Second Amendment rights.
Also within the last two weeks, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in on the fight against federal legislation that would require states that issue concealed-weapons permits to honor those issued by other states.
Gun sales are up nationwide, as evidenced by the increased number of firearms background checks requested of the FBI. These rose more than 25 percent in the first five months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.
Locally, some gun shop owners say sales are up 40 percent in the past eight to 10 months. Local police have recorded bumps in pistol applications and permits issued (the state requires no permits for rifles or shotguns).
Pistol permit applications on Long Island are projected to total about 3,500 this year, nearly 50 percent more than last year, according to figures provided by Nassau and Suffolk police. New York State projects it will issue more than 16,000 pistol permits this year. That's up nearly 21 percent from 2008. New York permits allow pistols to be kept at home or a place of business. Concealed carry permits are much harder to get.
Newsday interviewed people who recently bought handguns or are considering doing so, or who have applied or are considering applying for pistol permits. Some declined to state their specific home communities.