SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate panel pulled the trigger Wednesday on a bill that would raise Utah concealed firearms permit renewal fees, over the objections of the National Rifle Association and local gun enthusiasts.
SB16 would also increase the cost for various types of drivers' licenses and other programs the state Department of Public Safety oversees. A regular driver's license application would go up to $32 from $25.
There were no objections to raising those fees during hearing in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. But NRA Utah liaison Brian Judy argued against proposed increases to gun permit fees and a recently raised cost for criminal background checks.
The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation last year imposed a $20 background check fee on gun permit applicants, the same fee teachers, truck drivers, youth coaches and others already pay. Gun owners were the only group not paying that fee. The NRA has argued the bureau doesn't have the authority to make that change without legislative approval.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, proposes to increase gun permit renewals from $15 to $24.75. Background checks for gun purchases would go from $7.50 to $10.
Judy contends gun owners are subsidizing BCI services for others.
"We are paying for those checks. That's a fact. That's not NRA made-up rhetoric," he said. "We are willing to pay our fair share but not more than our fair share."
Thatcher said the issue comes down to one special interest group that doesn't want to pay its fair share. He said he's not aware of teachers or taxi drivers complaining about having to pay the background check fee.
"We are only dealing with a narrow complaint here," he said.
Joe Brown, public safety administrative services director, told the committee that BCI would have trouble funding its services without the fee increases and that its programs aren't money generators for the state.
Last year, the agency finished $140,000 in the black, so it's collecting about the same amount it spends, he said.
Utah charges residents $57 and nonresidents $67 for a concealed firearms permit, which officials said is among the lowest in the nation.
The committee unanimously endorsed the bill. It now moves to the Senate floor.