BERLIN — Since mid-December, Bob Arthur has watched as the time Maryland State Police need to review a gun application stretched to more than a month.
For the owner of Shooters Supply and other shop owners, the reason is simple: demand is high.
Amid concerns about stricter gun laws in Maryland following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December, many people have flocked to gun shops to buy weapons that could be banned Oct. 1.
In December and January, state police received about 26,000 applications — more than half the 46,000 in all of 2011.
Right now, that sharp spike in sales at gun stores has caused a mountain of work for the licensing division at MSP. The agency has gone to staffing 21 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The only reason we aren’t working 24 hours a day is the computer system is down for maintenance three hours a day,” said Sgt. Marc Black, a state police spokesman.
To reduce the backlog, Black said, the licensing division has been using people from other units and is working to approve 60 new staff members.
Even with the steps taken to get gun applications processed faster, Arthur said having to tell customers they have to wait four weeks or more to take home their firearm is not ideal.
“There is no reason for this backlog — it’s ridiculous,” said Arthur, whose shop is in Berlin, Md.
Customers are getting frustrated, he said, especially when the gun they purchased has to be tagged and locked away until the application clears.
Black said the licensing division anticipated an increase in sales following the school massacre and discussions of toughening gun laws began, but didn’t foresee how many Maryland residents would want to buy firearms in such a short amount of time.
Still, state police are not willing to give applications any less scrutiny to make things move along a bit faster.
“The Maryland State Police will not sacrifice speed for safety,” Black said. “So each application will be given the dedication and time it deserves to be processed correctly.”