Utah residents were understandably upset to learn that the fee for concealed carry permits would be raised by state officials. However, activists there aren’t remotely interested in taking the fee hike lying down.

Instead, they’re getting ready to fight back against what they argue was an improper fee increase.

The National Rifle Association issued a call for action to Utah gun owners on Wednesday asking them to voice their opposition to an increase in fees for first-time concealed weapons permit holders.

The state Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), which issues permits, on Aug. 1 increased the fee by $20, raising the cost to $57 for Utah residents and to $67 for out-of-staters.

The NRA and the Utah Shooting Sports Council (USSC), however, say BCI lacks the authority to raise fees on its own and should have sought legislative approval.

“The process by which this fee has been implemented purposefully circumvented legislative action and removed any ability for the public to submit input,” NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in a release.

BCI officials have been summoned to Capitol Hill to explain the increase. They are scheduled to do so at 9 a.m. Thursday before the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee.

 

To make matters worse, a couple learned of the fee hike while applying for their permit. They were reportedly told that the legislature actually had passed the fee increase.

The USSC doesn’t take issue with the increased fees in and of itself. What they want is a better explanation for the increase.

BCI said in a statement that it has not raised fees but is adding on a $20 Western Identification Network (WIN) fingerprint background check fee, which was authorized by the Legislature through the passage of HB124 in 2015.

The bill changed state law to allow BCI to apply WIN fees to all background checks associated with professional licensing, including those for teachers, attorneys and other noncriminal justice applicants.

Those applicant fees have essentially been subsidizing background checks for the concealed carry program since 2015, the agency said, and the fees would have to be raised again if gun permit applicants remained exempt. About 70 percent of Utah concealed carry permit holders live out of state.

 

While no one wants to see Utah’s taxpayers subsidizing the concealed carry program, this explanation doesn’t sound right to me. Not following Utah’s state politics, it’s hard to understand the nuances involved, but unless that bill specifically authorizes the WIN fees for concealed carry background checks, it doesn’t sound like BCI has a leg to stand on.

After all, if the law only allowed WIN fees for professional licensing, then it shouldn’t cover concealed carry permits since those aren’t professional licenses.

Yet BCI determined earlier this year that it could charge the fee for first time license applications, which is really where the problems come from. Any time bureaucrats decide they can determine the law—and that’s precisely what is happening here—it undermines liberty. No one elected BCI officials, yet they’re determining what fees can be charged to execute a constitutional right.

What do you think? Should bureaucrats be making determination on fees, or should the state legislatures?