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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Concealed Handgun Application Fees Issue in Lynchburg Council Races

Earlier this year, a bill died in the Virginia General Assembly that would have reduced concealed handgun permit (CHP) application fees from $50 to $25.  The issue has surfaced in Lynchburg City Council Elections.  The News and Advance is currently running a Q&A feature for citizens to ask questions of council candidates and this past Sunday, the paper ran the responses of candidates to the  question of where they stand on reducing the fee charged by the city for CHPs.  Some of the candidates said they were in favor of the current fee and gave justifications:
I believe that citizens have the right to own a gun and apply for a concealed carry permit. State law permits localities to determine a fee that fits their local cost to complete a background check. I believe that these background checks are paramount to maintaining a safe community - and public safety is invaluable. Our local police department processes each concealed carry application which takes, on average, one hour per application. The $50 fee is good for five years, meaning the cost of a permit is only $10 per year. $15 of the fee goes to the court system and state police, leaving our locality with $35 to pay an officer to complete a comprehensive background check. I voted against reducing the concealed carry permit fee -- I have not received any feedback from citizens opposing my decision. However, I consistently hear from citizens how much they enjoy living in a safe and healthy community. It is my priority to keep our city safe and advocate for the needs of our public safety officials.

Competent, law-abiding citizens have an absolute right to possess firearms. State law prohibits persons from carrying a concealed weapon unless they obtain a concealed weapons permit (CWP). Having a CWP is a “privilege” and not a “right.”

A CWP continues for 5 years and cannot be issued unless a qualified law enforcement officer researches confidential data, verifies 20 issues, and submits a report for a Circuit Court Judge’s approval. State and Court fees for this amount to $15. Police records show the average cost to our Police Department for its services exceeds $35. Since the City cannot lawfully charge more than $35 for these services, it fixes its portion of the fee at $35; resulting in a total $50 fee.

The City prefers that direct beneficiaries of a privilege should bear the costs of that privilege and other City taxpayers not be expected to subsidize it.

There is no evidence that the City’s current fee has deterred anyone from applying for a CWP.
I supported the current fee level for those enjoying this privilege.
Someone needs to tell Nelson that a) It's a Concealed Handgun Permit, not a Concealed Weapon Permit, and b) a permit is not a privilege - we have a right to defend ourselves and states like Vermont, Alaska, and Arizona recognize that right by not requiring a permit.

A couple support looking for ways to streamline the process to reduce the fee:
Lynchburg should find a way to lower the fee for concealed handgun permits. Bedford County charges $40.46 for new applications and $30.46 for non-expired renewal applications. If other jurisdictions in Virginia are able to effectively process applications at lower costs, then why can't Lynchburg? Why does Lynchburg charge high tax rates and fees rather than searching for ways to lower the cost of providing services.

During my time as President of the Technical Services Division at B&W, to remain competitive, we constantly looked at competitors and how they effectively lowered costs without comprising quality. Lynchburg needs to do the same where it makes sense.

Just this past week it was announced that the City of Lynchburg is postponing $129 million dollars in projects due to the cost of building Heritage High School. Previously, our City Manager stated that the city’s costs of providing services are increasing. On City Council, I will encourage our administration to look at other localities and find better ways for providing the services that we enjoy.
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I believe Lynchburg’s CWP application process can be streamlined to provide the same high-level service at a lower rate. The current $50 fee is no barrier to our law-abiding neighbors who want a permit, nor would a lower rate make it easier for criminals to access weapons. Quite simply: lowering the fee is a way to save people money – and I think that’s important.

I’d never recommend a cost-saving measure that puts citizens in danger. Virginia allows CWP fees to range anywhere from $15 to $50. Our neighbors in surrounding counties are getting it done for $15-$35. I felt that a $25 fee would be appropriate.

Detectives from the Lynchburg Police Department earn overtime pay for conducting CWP background checks. I respect the work those detectives do for our city, but I believe we could find more efficient ways to complete this process.

CWP applicants understand that we need a reasonable fee to recoup the costs of a background check. Let’s not take advantage of their understanding by charging the maximum rate!
It's rare that firearm issues come up in local elections given Virginia's preemption statute but issues like fees for permit applications and approval of shooting ranges are perfect examples of why we need to know where the candidates stand.  If you live in Lynchburg, please share this information with your fellow gun owners so they can make an informed decision on May 6th when the council elections will be held.

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