SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are questioning the state Bureau of Criminal Identification's authority to nearly double the cost of obtaining a concealed firearms permit.
Members of the Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee on Thursday reviewed a $20 increase to what had been a $25 fee for fingerprinting and performing a background check for new concealed carry permit applicants. The bureau implemented the fee increase Aug. 1.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, told fellow lawmakers that the background check fee increase stems from 2015 legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton. That law originally was intended to increase background checks on public schoolteachers, he said.
The "legislative intent" of the law is a key issue in determining whether the Bureau of Criminal Identification can impose the fee, said Greene, review committee co-chairman.
Greene said he's sympathetic to the bureau's financial needs, but the cost of a concealed carry permit in Utah is a separate matter.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, opposed Greene's assessment of the issue, saying the 2015 law applies to background checks for concealed carry permits.
"I realize the father of the bill had certain intentions," Dabakis said, but the language of the bill still explicitly allows the bureau to impose the fee hikes for concealed carry permits.
Dabakis also noted that teachers pay more for required background checks and fingerprinting than concealed carry permit applicants.
Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification Lt. Ryan Van Fleet said the fees were increased to place the background check information in the Western Identification Network, a multistate identification system.
Van Fleet said his legal counsel determined the bureau had statutory authority to make the change.
The agency only recently realized it could increase the fee, he said, and could have been collecting that revenue since the 2015 law change.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Judy said there are differences between the background checks for concealed carry permits and those for schoolteachers.
The NRA has worked with the Bureau of Criminal Identification in the past to determine the costs of the background checks, he said.
Judy told the committee that the NRA "should have been here in January, in front of the Legislature," when the bureau determined it had the ability to assess the fee.
Fees for permit applicants should cover the exact cost of the background check, he said, and nothing more.
Judy said the NRA would continue to work with the bureau to ensure that concealed carry permit applicants pay the correct fee.
"If the fees are necessary, we will pay the fee that is required to conduct the entire process," he said.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said the opportunity to speak with lawmakers on the issue was never afforded to gun owners because they've believed the increased costs for background checks only applied to schoolteachers.