HARTFORD, Conn. -- Gun rights supporters and state Republican lawmakers are fighting huge gun permit fee increases proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, saying they would price many people out of being able to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The Democratic governor wants to quadruple the five-year renewal fee for pistol permits from $70 to $300 as part of his plan to offset a budget deficit estimated at $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year. For people getting their first five-year pistol permits, the fees would increase from $140 to $370, which includes a $70 charge collected by cities and towns. The proposed fees would be among the highest in the country.
Fees for background checks needed to obtain pistol permits also would increase, from $50 to $75. Malloy’s pistol permit and background check fee plan would raise nearly $12 million a year in additional revenue.
The National Rifle Association called Malloy’s proposal “outrageous.”
“The ability to protect and defend yourself should not be reserved only for the wealthy,” said Chris Kopacki, Connecticut legislative liaison for the NRA. “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 advocacy group, said Connecticut’s fees already are high.
“That is a lot of money for the exercise of a right,” he said. “What other right is subject to these kinds of costs for individuals? And now to increase that, it is preposterous.”
Malloy defended the proposed fees last week, saying they are in line with fees in other jurisdictions and will 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.”
Most states’ fees, however, are $100 or below for multiple-year permits. The only nearby jurisdiction Malloy’s proposed fees would be in line with is those in New York City, which charges $340 to apply and about $90 for fingerprinting for a three-year license.
Malloy, however, said on Friday that he would consider a “carve out” of the fee for people on fixed incomes. He did not elaborate.
Republicans in the legislature vowed to fight the proposed gun permit fees. Democrats hold a slim majority in the House of Representatives. There is an even split in the Senate, where Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman can cast tie-breaking votes.
“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, of Derby, the House Republican leader.
Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said he also believes Malloy’s proposed fees are excessive, but said it’s too early in the budget process to rule anything out.
Malloy, who was the governor during 2012’s Sandy Hook shooting that killed over 20 schoolchildren, told “CBS This Morning” in December 2015 that Congress needs to pass federal legislation on firearm sales.
“Of course federal legislation is necessary,” Malloy said. “There should be no gun sales that are not subject to a background check. Overwhelmingly Americans agree with that.”
“When the NRA can stop the Congress of the United States from passing common-sense legislation, we’re in trouble as a democracy,” he added. “Overwhelmingly, people want to see some level of background checks on a universal basis.”