Gun permit seekers line up

Aug. 26—Close to 80 people were at the doors of the Niagara County Courthouse in Lockport on Thursday waiting for the building to open. Their goal was to file applications for concealed carry pistol permits before the state's new gun law comes into effect on Sept. 1.

Those waiting, some for more than six-hours, said they felt a need for protection of themselves and their businesses. They also stressed that the new state laws passed by the legislature were going to make qualifying for the permit more difficult, so they were applying before it went into effect.

The average applicants in past years in Niagara County for the permit was between 1,000 and 1,100 applicants, County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski said. In 2021, he noted that 1,429 individuals applied for the permit. In the past nine days almost 700 applicants have been filed.

"One individual was at the doors at 5:30 a.m.," Jastrzemski said and added that there were still more waiting at approximately 4:30 p.m.

All of the applicants interviewed said that this was their first time filing.

Marc Werth, a college student studying global affairs at the University at Buffalo said, "A lot of crazy stuff was happening recently," and while he was aware he couldn't bring the gun on campus, he had heard that the qualifying for the permit was going to be more difficult in the light of the new law, so he decided to get it before the Sept. 1 deadline. He came in at 11 a.m. and was still waiting as 5 p.m. approached.

Kim Blackley, another first-time applicant, similarly said that she felt like it was, "now or never."

"With the new law coming into effect, I feel like it's potentially now or never with the new regulations they're trying to make," she said. She had been waiting for five hours.

Jastrzemski didn't make any bones about his feelings of the new law.

"This is a spiteful, awful law," he said, noting it was passed by the downstate legislators and Gov. Kathy Hochul in a special session.

The new law stipulates that new license applicants must complete 16 hours of classroom training and two hours of live firearm training. Formerly, the requirements for conceal to carry pistol permits was a four-hours of pistol safety class. Permit holders must recertify every three years rather than five-years.

"It's a slap in the face of nearly 39,000 pistol permit holders in Niagara County," Jastzremski said, and also noted that people were afraid that their right to bear arms was going to be taken away. "I can't say it enough," he concluded. "It's a spiteful, awful law."