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More guns than people on rise in CT

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LEBANON, CT (WFSB) -

In more than a dozen Connecticut towns, guns outnumber people. Eyewitness News visited Lebanon on Thursday, where the number of legally registered guns is on the rise.

John Mullins is a gun owner in Lebanon and shot his first gun at 5 years old. He started with BB guns and owned a shotgun by age 14.

There are three people that live in the Mullins house, but there are also four guns.

"I'm looking to buy another one for the upcoming hunting season," Mullins said. "Why so many? Because I can."

Residents like Mullins are contributing to the rise of legally registered guns in Lebanon. In 2011, the town population was 7,300 while the number of guns in Lebanon was more than 9,400.

Lebanon's First Selectwoman, Joyce Okonuk, has paid attention to the recent rise.

"It's a steady rise in the past two years," said Okonuk. "So it's gotten even more extreme at this point."

Okonuk said in recent months, especially after the Newtown shooting, she saw a dramatic increase in registration applications.

"It has probably tripled, many quadrupled since that time period," said Okonuk.

The dilemma with guns outnumbering residents has also occurred in Chaplin, Colebrook, Eastford, Goshen, Hampton, Harwinton, Lyme, Norfolk, Roxbury, Salem, Union and Voluntown.

Okonuk said in a town like Lebanon, most people collect weapons and a lot of people are gun collectors.

Scott Lawlor from the Criminal Division of the State's Office of Policy and Management said he expects to see the numbers rise as more law abiding gun owners take measures to stay within the law, especially since the state's gun law passed.

"We're definitely going to see a lot more people who themselves get a license or credential," said Lawlor. "We'll see a lot more firearms enter our database.

Although the small town numbers are large, officials said it is not necessarily an indication of increased violence.

"I don't have any concerns about that in our community," said Okonuk. "It wouldn't even enter my mind to worry about more guns, more crime. It's just not typical here."

The concern is the disparity in Connecticut's bigger cities with the amount of unregistered guns. Hartford has a population of 124,000, yet 16,000 guns are registered. New Haven's population is 129,000, while 22,000 guns are registered.

Police confirmed that many crimes are committed with unregistered guns, but the state hopes the new gun law fixed that loophole by tracking ammunition.

"In order to buy ammunition in the future, you'll need to have a credential issued by state police," said Lawlor. "In the past, anybody, gang members, convicted felons, could walk into a Walmart and buy all the ammunition they wanted with no questions asked. That has now changed in Connecticut."

The number of guns versus residents in Lebanon still troubles Okonuk. She said the town is more meticulous in how they approve the gun applications.

The town will take a closer look at the background checks of applicants and have them interview with the resident state trooper said Okonuk.

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