Lawmakers joined gun rights groups at the State Capitol on Friday because they were furious over fee hikes on pistol permits in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed two-year budget.
Under Malloy's proposal, the hike would increase state permit fees from $70 to $300 and a background check would increase from $50 to $70.
The gun rights groups, along with Republican lawmakers, said they feel as if the fees will hit lower income owners. They gathered at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Friday morning and voted to fight the measure.
"Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposed tax hike would make it harder for Connecticut's law abiding citizens to defend themselves," Christopher Kopacki, who is the Connecticut liaison for the National Rifle Association of America, said.
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven) said it was "obvious" that the fees proposed in the governor's budget "is not about administrative costs."
"This is about the governor plugging a budget hole by targeting gun owners for political reasons. And no matter where you stand on the state’s gun laws, I think all people can agree that pricing out the poor on something that all citizens have an equal right to is just wrong no matter the issue. Increasing the state portion of permit fees from $140 to $370 and $70 to $300 is going to be something that many low-income or fixed-income families and responsible gun owners simply cannot afford. An increase this significant wrongly puts up a clear and immediate financial barrier to certain individuals - all so the governor can make a political statement," Fasano said in a statement on Friday.
Malloy argued that the hikes are needed, given the high demand of pistols in the state. He also said he's not anti-gun and the increase will help hire people to handle the backlog of background checks.
"The process needs to be modernized that's one of the goals of the process as well," Malloy said.
Malloy said his administration looked at nearby states and decided to change the way Connecticut handles fees to align with the state’s neighbors. According to gun groups, the increase would make Connecticut’s pistol fees among the nation’s highest and the only place where gun permits would be more expensive would be New York City.
"To go from $35 just a few years ago to $300, a tenfold increase," State Rep. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott) said. "He's trying to single out his political enemies."
Democrats, who represent rural districts, said they'll find money for background checks, but did not go into specifics.
"I am not going to give you specifics today. I am just not," State Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Baltic) said. "We are in the middle of the budget process."
"I want to be able to protect my three kids," mother Heather Colletti said.
Colletti is a single parent and said she been waiting for a permit for six months. It's unclear why since it's supposed to be 60 days. Colletti said she's upset about the fees.
"I can't choose a cheaper gun, if a permit is $300," Colletti said. "I just don't get one because of that."
The increases would bring in about $9 million dollars. Connecticut State Police said they have seen an increase in permit applications and longer lines because of the possibility of an increase.
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