Forewarned is forearmed after North Branford home invasion

Andy Piscitelle, owner of the Perfect Trigger gun shop in North Branford, holds a Mossberg 500 Bantam shotgun Tuesday. He says business has increased 400 percent since a home invasion occurred nearby over the weekend.
Andy Piscitelle, owner of the Perfect Trigger gun shop in North Branford, holds a Mossberg 500 Bantam shotgun Tuesday. He says business has increased 400 percent since a home invasion occurred nearby over the weekend.

North Branford - About 2½ miles as the crow flies from the house at 17 Autumn Court is Perfect Trigger, an unprepossessing little gun shop sitting cheek by jowl to Skrewy Lewy's sports bar.

There may be something to that proximity.

The house at 17 Autumn Court was the scene of a home invasion Sunday night in which five suspects, armed and with bandannas over their faces, tied up and terrified four family members while ransacking the house for everything from cash and jewelry to homemade tomato sauce.

Perfect Trigger was the scene Monday and again on Tuesday of a run on shotguns.

The store sold five on Monday and four on Tuesday, and, compared with the usual two classes a month, filled six classes of up to eight students each to trains for their pistol permits in September.

And how does selling four shotguns in one day compare to a normal day of business? Andy Piscitelle, 56, the proprietor of Perfect Trigger, puts it simply: "It's about a 400 percent increase."

Escorted by Lucy, a black lab, and Malcolm, a shepherd-Shar-Pei-husky mix named after the King of Scotland in Shakespeare's "Macbeth," the former English teacher says that when it comes to home defense, "We recommend shotguns."

This because the shot isn't likely to go through walls and with the shorter (18.5-inch) barrel, the home defense shotgun "allows you to maneuver quickly and through doorways," Piscitelle says.

The house at 17 Autumn Court is one of a crop of McMansions freshly sprouted in what used to be a farmer's field, surrounded by farms and stables, corn and horses. One trip to this remote outpost of the lavish class makes it clear that you have to know where you're going to find it.

The Martone family, which runs C&T Martone Mason Contractors in North Branford, emerged physically unscathed from their ordeal.

But, if the boom in business at Perfect Trigger is any indication, the psyches of North Branfordites did not.

Piscitelle explains that he saw the same phenomenon after the home invasion in Cheshire four years ago, a crime that ended much more tragically for the Petit family: a surge in the demand for guns.

"Anytime you hear of a home invasion in the local area, you'll see an increase in business," Piscitelle says.

While many homeowners may suddenly decide to arm themselves in the wake of such a crime, he points out that the shotgun has another advantage: If you get a hunting license, there's no waiting period to buy one; if not, you wait just 14 days.

To buy a handgun in Connecticut, one must take eight hours of pistol training and safety classes and then wait "anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks, depending on the town that you live in."

Piscitelle, who is a training counselor for the National Rifle Association, has several words of advice for those wanting to feel more secure in their homes.

"I think it's important for people to realize that for home self-defense, there's a lot of other things besides just having a firearm," he says.

"The first thing is to have a safe room in their home, a room or a place to go to if there is a break-in. And they should know ways of exiting, if possible. Because retreating should be the first option. The last option you want to see is someone having to use lethal force."

People also have to ask themselves the question, Piscitelle says: "If they are going to use lethal force and it's their last alternative, are they going to be able to do it? Because if they're not, they're putting themselves in more jeopardy."

So how did an English teacher become a gun shop owner?

"I taught middle school English to severely emotionally disturbed students in the city of Hartford," Piscitelle says. "Actually, my doctor said, 'You need to do something else for your stress level.' "

k.robinson@theday.com

The house at 17 Autumn Court, right, is part of a remote, exclusive neighborhood in North Branford.
The house at 17 Autumn Court, right, is part of a remote, exclusive neighborhood in North Branford.

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