Governor would double gun license fees
Island hunters and target shooters would be hard hit by a proposal from Gov. Deval Patrick to double the licensing fees now paid by registered gun owners and add an additional annual fee for gun dealers. The governor proposed the fees in a supplemental budget that must still be approved by the legislature.
If approved the cost of a firearms license would increase from the current $100 to $200. In addition, the bill would establish a new annual $100 license inspection fee for gun dealers and increase the cost of a temporary license for out-of-state carriers from $100 to $250, according to the State House News Service.
All Massachusetts gun owners are required to possess a firearms identification card or license to carry. Both are issued by local police departments and must be renewed every six years.
The fees are projected to bring in $2.8 million this year, an estimate built into the fiscal 2009 budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor on Sunday. But lawmakers must still approve separate legislation authorizing the fee increases before they take effect.
Unlike the revenue from fishing and hunting licenses, which support programs within the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the revenue collected from the increases would be directed to the state's General Fund.
"Agencies across state government were asked what fees it may be time to revisit. These were among a host of others that were included in the budget," said administration spokeswoman Cyndi Roy. "We face some challenging economic times that call for both restraint in spending and for new revenue sources. This is one area we felt, as we believe the Legislature did by including the revenues in their budget, was an appropriate place to revisit."
The increase would be the first since 2003, when lawmakers approved an increase from $25 to the current $100 license renewal fee.
Lawmakers who support gun ownership blasted the fees as unaffordable for some and said they would unfairly penalize law-abiding citizens, according to the State House News Service.
"Give me a kid who's into hunting and fishing and I will give you a kid who's not doing crack cocaine down on a street corner," said Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre).
Senator Brewer, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said he would wield his influence to try to strip the supplemental budget of the fees in committee. "This appears to be a punitive, large amount," he said. "I will make my voice heard."
Senator Robert O'Leary, who represents the Cape and Islands, said, "I am aware of it and I am not sympathetic." He said the 100 percent increase seems "a little bit like a grab."
Bob DeLisle, president of the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club, said the proposed hikes amount to stealing from law-abiding citizens. "It is ridiculous," said Mr. DeLisle, a retired teacher and skeet instructor. "They are doing it to people who are legal. The criminals don't get a license, they just get a gun."
Mr. DeLisle said the fee is still a tax directed at a small group of people. "If they want to raise taxes then everybody should be contributing, not just people who buy booze, smoke cigarettes and shoot."
Mr. Delisle said the proposal has its roots in the general anti-gun philosophy shared by many lawmakers and a strategy to reduce crime, a view that he does not support. "They figure they might as well sock it to us," he said.