In The Line Of Fire

MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office is being bombarded with pistol permit requests.

So much so, part-time help may be brought in to handle the additional workload, Chautauqua County Undersheriff Charles Holder told the legislature’s Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.

In a five-day span, well more than 150 pistol permit applications have been requested – the direct result of New York’s sweeping gun-control legislation, Holder said. The uncertainty surrounding the comprehensive and controversial bill is also causing a flood of calls to local police.

“The Sheriff’s Office has been overrun with requests,” Holder said, pointing out that the county has seen its pistol permit request rate rise over the last few years, but nothing compared to this week.

“We’re way behind where we’d like to be,” the undersheriff said. “We like to process these permits and get them out to people who deserve them. We’re just behind.”

Those calling the Sheriff’s Office are requesting information regarding the state’s new gun law, which among other things, will require an updated permit every five years through the State Police. Exact details regarding the requirements, however, remain murky at best.

“Right now we really don’t know what the law really means,” Holder said. “We haven’t dissected it enough, and we haven’t seen what it means to us and our agencies.”

With a wave of pistol permit requests, which usually take the Sheriff’s Office two to three months to process, additional manpower will most likely be sought. Holder would not comment how far behind his office is with the permits.

Other costs associated with updating firearm information every five years in accordance with the law also remain a mystery at this time. “I hope it’s not going to mean a lot of unfunded mandates,” Holder said.

County legislator John Hemmer, R-Westfield, questioned how much revenue the Sheriff’s Office receives through the permits. Holder said state and local governments set the rates, ultimately giving the county around $30 to $40 per permit after other fees are disbursed.

Holder on Wednesday also discussed Tannerite, the material used to create an exploding target when shot with a rifle. A 20-year-old male on Sunday admitted to shooting 18 pounds of the product, sending a thundering sound wave throughout southern Chautauqua County.

Residents as far away as Pennsylvania heard the blast, many of whom took to social networking sites to describe what they heard.

Sheriff Joe Gerace said this week he would look into a countywide ban of the material. No discussion took place in front of the Public Safety Committee, but Holder reaffirmed action must be taken.

“It probably takes an incident like this to show why a local law needs to be enacted,” Holder told reporters.