Sen. Somers speaks out on behalf of CT firearms retailers

August 2, 2021


Background checks on gun sales have come to a standstill. Here’s why.

(Norwich Bulletin)


Normally for retail, you’d expect the owner to be managing his stock, making sure things are running smoothly, and maybe talking to customers. 

However, Warren Tate, the owner of Connecticut Carries Guns and Ammo in Sterling, is spending a lot of time on the phone, or in his case two phones.

“I’ve got to dial the phone, and dial the phone and dial the phone over and over again until another customer comes in the door,” Tate said.

For firearms stores, they need to perform a background check with the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESSP) before buying a firearm from or selling a gun to a customer. However, a process that previously took a matter of minutes could now take hours or longer. This is due to difficulties with computer system upgrades, causing more difficulty with calling DESPP.

However, Tate also said there isn’t a way to leave a message or keep people on hold, so getting someone “is like playing whack-a-mole,” and it may take hours.

“It’s a simple fix,” Tate said “You can call the Department of Motor Vehicles, it’s the same state, and they’ll answer you in the order of the calls received.”

State Sen. Heather Somers wrote a letter to DESSP Commissioner James Rovella Tuesday, voicing the complaints of firearms retailers. 

She also is unsure why a background check needs to be performed on each purchase.

“Anyone who has a permit has already undergone a background check,” Somers said. “You have to get a background check and get fingerprinted to be able to get a permit.”

Somers’ focus, however, is the impact the slowdown is having on local businesses.

“A lot of these mom and pop shops can’t survive with not being able to make sales for an extended period of time,” Somers said.

Tate first saw issues three weeks ago, after DESSP shut down for a period of time for the update. The waits made some people impatient.

“I’ve had customers that turn around and say ‘oh forget it, I’ll just go to a different store’, and I tell them ‘all the stores in Connecticut are doing the same thing,’” Tate said. “They don’t believe you.”

Matt Longino of Firearms, LLC in Groton, has had to sell customers items on “layaway,” having to pick up their purchase another time, while his employees are manning the phones similarly to Tate.

“I can sell it to you and take your money, but you can’t leave with a firearm without that authorization process,” Longino said.

One of Tate’s customers, Sterling resident Sam DelRusso, has recently made firearm purchases and hopes the issues are resolved sooner rather than later.

“It’s tough because you’ve got a long line of people waiting to pick up their firearm, and they can’t get through to the state,” DelRusso said. “It’s a big hassle for everyone in the end.”

Longino suggested a simple solution to this problem, which would allow dealers to use the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NICS) for the background checks, as 37 other states already do. However, with Connecticut laws, the DESPP needs to be a middle man in checking NICS.

“(Connecticut) had a system that, albeit didn’t work great, we were functioning for the past 20 years,” Longino said.

Both Tate and Longino said they appreciate the people who work of DESPP and the Connecticut State Police, it’s just that the system for background checks is inconvenient.

“Talking with the individuals who work there, it’s not their fault, and they’re as frustrated with the system as we are,” Longino said.

Tate said he’s considering closing his store and getting out of the gun business if the issue persists.

“I just can’t deal with it,” Tate said. “It’s getting real, real close.”

Longino has heard from owners of small operations similar to Connecticut Carries.

“Those that are doing it as a full-time job, as a one-man operation, are probably going to have a hard time surviving,” Longino said.

The Norwich Bulletin contacted DESSP multiple times, but no one was available to talk on the matter by the end of business hours Friday.