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Pistol license reopened in Onondaga County, but backlog remains

A man, wearing a black Sheriff's uniform and a badged star, stands behind a podium with multiple microphones attached.
Emily Shiroff
Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley delivers a public statement to citizens and the media.

The Onondaga County Sheriff Department’s pistol license unit office in Syracuse will be reopening for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but it still might be a while before getting a permit.

COVID-19 closed the office, forcing the department to conduct permitting operations entirely by mail. But now, residents will again have the option to apply for a gun permit in person.

Onondaga County Undersheriff Jeff Passino said they're hiring new special patrol officers, or SPOs, to staff up for those looking for a face-to-face appointment.

"We're not taking away the mail-in for the citizens that like that," Passino said. "But the citizens that want to speak to somebody directly at the window, these three SPOs will be there along with the other staff that's currently working in the pistol issue unit to take care of those amendments for them."

Despite the new hires, wait times might not be speeding up. Newly elected Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley said it could take more than a year to get the sheriff’s department’s approval to own a gun. And that’s a best-case scenario.

"It's 60 weeks just to get an appointment," Shelley said. "That's if you have all your paperwork done, your fingerprints done, background check done."

The office may also have more due diligence to perform before granting some licenses. The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon allowed a controversial state law to go into effect amid ongoing legal challenges. The law calls for concealed carry applicants to provide additional info, including social media accounts, for background checks. Passino said the office would determine if it needs more resources to complete the tasks.

“Currently, right now, we only have one pistol license investigator, and that's all we were going to continue with right now," Passino said. "We have to assess how long it would take to do a background into getting into social media. If we're seeing that there's a backlog because of the background, we would consider probably adding some people.”

The office is set to reopen in early February. Appointments are still required and can be made online on the Onondaga County Sheriff’s website.