Last week we reported on a massive gun permit fee increase proposed by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Since, the plan has faced backlash from Second Amendment rights groups who say the new fees, which are supposedly being implemented to offset the state’s budget deficit, would price many residents out of being able to exercise their rights.
The plan would quadruple the five-year renewal fee for pistol permits from $70 to $300, according to this story from abcnews.com. For people getting their first five-year handgun permit, the costs are heavier, which some say is designed to discourage new gun owners, the story says. They must submit fingerprints, pass a NICS background check and a mental health records check as part of their application.
For a first-time handgun permit applicant, the fees would increase from $140 to $370, including a $70 charge collected by local municipalities (apparently for processing paperwork that is all done on computers now). On top of that, fees for the background check needed to obtain a pistol permit would increase from $50 to $75 (the same NICS check for which gun shops charge as little as $16, which they will have to go through again at the store when they actually buy a gun).
That means a first time gun buyer wishing to purchase a handgun has to shell out $445 for permits, on top of the cost of the firearm. Depending on the model, the permits could easily cost more or nearly as much as the gun itself.
“The ability to protect and defend yourself should not be reserved only for the wealthy,” said Chris Kopacki, the Connecticut legislative liaison for the NRA, in the story. “Some of our state’s poorest residents, many of whom live in high-crime neighborhoods, may not be able to afford a firearm for self-protection under Malloy’s proposed fee hikes.”
Rich Burgess, president of Connecticut Carry, a non-profit gun rights group, said in the story that the state’s fees are already too high.
“That’s a lot of money for the exercise of a right,” he said in the story. “What other right is subject to these kinds of costs for individuals? And now to increase that, it is preposterous.”
In this story, NBC talked to gun shop owners about what it could mean for gun owners in the state.
“Existing gun owners, they’ll suck it up and do what they have to do,” said Gary Lenk, a gunsmith at Newington Gun Exchange, in the story. “It’s new customers I’m worried about.”
Malloy defended the proposed fees by saying they are in line with fees in other jurisdictions and will simply cover the state’s administrative costs for issuing gun permits.
“What was true was that our fee was unreasonably less expensive and, quite frankly, given the amount of work that has to be done with respect to licensure, we weren’t recovering our costs,” Malloy said. “I suspect that everyone who has a pistol permit is going to get a renewal. If you’re going to have a gun and you’re going to seek a permit, we have a fee structure.”
The estimated new revenue from the increased fees is $9 million, according to the NBC story.
“For some people, that’s a very severe hit,” Lenk said. “If you get the elderly that are on fixed incomes and they find themselves in a situation where they’re nervous and they fear for their safety, and they want to get something to protect themselves, that’s a lot of money.”
Perhaps the fee structure need to be reviewed, since these new costs would make Connecticut’s permits the most expensive of all states that require them. Most states charge less than $100 for multiple-year permits. The story says the only jurisdiction the proposed fees would be in line with would be in New York City, which charges $340 to apply and about $90 for fingerprinting for a three-year license.
“To single out those people who work hard, pay their taxes, and want to exercise their constitutional rights and protect their families is unfair,” said Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby), the state House Republican leader. The Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said in the story he also believes the proposed fees are excessive, but wouldn’t rule them out.
The NBC story says the proposal hasn’t received much vocal support in the General Assembly, and that Sen. Cathy Osten, one of the chairs of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Cathy Osten, said she would look for ways to balance the budget without such a drastic fee increase.