In many cities and townships, applicants must provide at least one and as many as three or four character witnesses alongside their application for a gun permit. There is no one effective format for a character reference letter, since every city and town is looking for slightly different information. Generally, you're reassuring the police department that you've known the applicant for a long time and consider him to be of good moral character.
Check the Rules for Character Witnesses
Each jurisdiction has specific rules about who can act as a character witness. In Niagara County, New York, for example, the character witness must reside in the same county or city as the applicant, and must have known the applicant for at least four years. You cannot give a reference if you're related to the applicant or to the other character witnesses. Call the local sheriff's office to check whether you meet the criteria.
Locate the Correct Forms
In most jurisdictions, you'll write a character reference freestyle in the form of a letter. However, some gun permit agencies ask that you give your reference in the form of an affidavit, which you will sign in the presence of a notary public, or by endorsing the applicant's application form. Writing these references is simply a case of filling in the blanks on a pre-printed form. The applicant should have received the appropriate forms as part of her application pack.
Information to Include in the Letter
There is no one specific format for a character reference letter. As long as you include the following information, the letter will be effective:
- Your name, address and contact details
- Your date of birth – in most jurisdictions, people giving character references must be over the age of 21
- How long you have known the applicant and the nature of your relationship
- A statement concerning the applicant's reputation for honesty, sobriety and moral standing
- A statement confirming that you are not related to the applicant
- Your recommendation that the applicant be granted a gun license.
Websites such as lettersofrecommendation.net and characterreferenceletters.com have sample letters that you can use to guide your drafting. However, it's important to use your own words and stick to the facts that you know. Never write false information.
Signing the Reference Letter
When you're happy with the letter, sign it and write the date. Reference signatures do not need to be notarized unless you've been asked to provide a reference in the form of an affidavit. Give the letter to the applicant so that he may attach it to his application or, if you wish the letter to remain confidential, mail it to the local sheriff's department. Be aware that a representative of the gun unit may call and interview you to verify the information you have provided.