State lawmakers question Utah concealed carry fee hike

Following a campaign by gun rights groups, Utah lawmakers want answers on how state officials bumped up permit costs this month without first going through them.

The Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification increased the cost of an initial concealed firearm permit for residents from $37 to $57, adding a $20 fee to process fingerprint through a state system. Lawmakers last week contend the regulatory agency may have gone too far.

“What we can’t allow is unilateral decisions by administrative action in lieu of appropriate action,” said state Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.

BCI argues the fee change was authorized by a 2015 law establishing a $20 fee to process background check fingerprint cards for submission to the FBI’s Rap Back System on school employees. BCI officials say applying the extra fee for gun permits was simply missed for the past two years, a correction the agency made moving forward.

The base $25 firearm permit application fee ($35 for non-residents) and $12 FBI background check fee remain were unchanged, with the only addition being the $20 fee to scan and process fingerprints through a state database.

Driven largely by non-resident applications in a state with a population of just over 3 million, the number of active concealed carry permits in the state topped a record 633,000 last year.

A 2015 survey by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that licensing fees vary widely across the nation from a low of $10 in South Dakota to over $150 in Illinois, putting Utah’s fee on the low-end of the spectrum. The report also found that each $10 increase in fees reduces the percentage of adults with permits by about half a percentage point.

Second Amendment supporters contend that if a fee increase was justified, it should be run through the Utah Legislature first.

“There have been times in the past when CFP fees were being used to fund government programs unrelated to the issuance of these permits,” said the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action in a statement issued earlier this month. “To ensure that won’t happen again, the appropriate process for proposed fee increases is to be run through the legislative process where bright lights can be shined on the data and information can be provided by state agencies.”