HARTFORD, CT—Tuesday’s Appropriations Committee public hearing was one of the first places where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed fee increases for gun permit holders was discussed, but it won’t be the last.
Gun owners, according to Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson, expect their presence will get louder as the proposal moves forward.
More than a dozen gun owners sat quietly behind Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro as she explained the governor’s proposal.
Last week, Malloy proposed increasing the state portion of the pistol permit fee from $70 to $300. He also proposed increasing the cost of the initial 5-year pistol permit fee from $140 to $370. The increase in fees for gun owners will bring in another $9 million to the state annually, according to the governor’s budget estimates.
News of the increase spread quickly over the Internet and an action alert was included in the NRA’s daily newsletter.
“To be very clear, we’ve been very upfront that the main driver behind this proposal is that we monitor closely what other neighboring jurisdictions are doing relative to their fee and tax structures to ensure that Connecticut remains competitive and on par with what other jurisdictions are doing,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said Tuesday. “Implementing a fee structure comparable to pistol permitting fees set by NYPD is projected to raise an additional $9 million for the state.”
Schriro told the Appropriations Committee Tuesday that they anticipate 45,326 permits will require renewal in 2018 and the increase is necessary because “many of our offices are understaffed and have been understaffed for quite some time.”
She said meeting all the registration deadlines is a challenge for the department.
However, Schriro also said the money from the increased pistol permit fees will go into the general fund and will be dispersed by the governor’s budget office “back to us or elsewhere.”
Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R- East Haddam, said she’s confused why the administration would be talking about the additional workload in relationship to the fee increase “if the money is just going into the general fund.”
She said gun owners have seen an increase of “850 percent over the last five years of their fees.”
Ziobron said she’s opposed to the increase.
“This is about fairness. This is about not targeting one group of folks over others to create a revenue stream,” Ziobron said.
Wilson said an Office of Legislative Research report from 2013 shows that Connecticut’s fees were already “triple on average” what’s charged by other states.
Also some of those other states allow residents to carry without a permit, Wilson added.
There’s other states like Vermont and Maine, which have adopted constitutional carry provisions, “where you can carry a firearm open or concealed without a permit,” Wilson said.
He said CCDL, one of Connecticut’s largest Second Amendment organizations, is not here to argue open carry, but what they’re trying to do is point out some states aren’t charging fees due to constitutional carry provisions.
“They’re trying to feed their budget on the backs of gun owners,” Wilson said. “We know it doesn’t cost that much.”
He said they’re not only increasing permit fees, but the background check fees as well.
He said the governor’s proposal is shortsighted and won’t raise the amount of revenue they’re estimating because a lot of folks won’t renew their permits and new applicants simply won’t apply because in addition to the fingerprinting fees and the basic NRA safety course will put owning a firearm out of reach for many.
“It’s cost prohibitive for people to be able to own a firearm in this state,” Wilson said.
The Connecticut Citizens Defense League, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action and the National Shooting Sports Foundation will hold a press conference Friday, Feb. 17 to address the issue.