Freshman Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, wants help understanding wild price differences for concealed weapons permits in Idaho’s 44 counties.
For that, she asked for a little help from the attorney general’s office.
In a July 27 letter, Deputy Attorney General Paul R. Panther outlines how Idaho sheriffs must handle collection of concealed weapons permit fees, an issue in focus just days after the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance revealed the wide cost disparities among counties.
IFF and ISAA exposed Teton County for charging the most for a new concealed carry permit at $115. Just 97 miles away, applicants pay only $62 for a new permit in Bingham County.
Legislators rewrote Idaho’s concealed carry permit law this year and put some limits on how much Idaho counties can charge for services. The law allows counties to charge $20 for new permits and $15 for renewals, plus the actual cost of taking applications, processing fingerprints and other administrative duties needed to administer licenses.
That law took effect July 1.
Since the reform, Teton County hasn’t changed its fee structure, and continues charging $100 as an application fee for a first-time permit and $15 for the associated identification card.
Panther said the law places strict limits on how sheriffs handle the associated fees and charges. “No more than actual costs should be charged,” he wrote, adding that administrative costs may vary. “The charging of actual costs in every single case may present practical difficulties due to the possibility that these costs could fluctuate.”
If the sheriff takes in extra cash above associated costs, Panther wrote, “the sheriff may not spend those funds on other matters, but within the limited scope of the statute, he or she has discretion as to how to spend the funds in performance of those duties.”
Sheriffs must respond to their costs, including cutting permits fees if expenses drop, Panther wrote. “The sheriff should attempt to charge no more than these actual costs,” he said. “If the actual costs decrease, the corresponding charges should be decreased as well.”
There’s no statewide mechanism for ensuring sheriffs aren’t improperly charging gun owners. Instead, the power to audit falls at the county level, Panter said, and should be performed yearly as written in Idaho law.
Scott told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday the letter served only to provide some clarity in murky waters. “I had a citizen pose a question and I didn’t know the answer,” the first-term lawmaker said.
After reading the letter, she said state law clearly outlines how sheriffs must handle permits and fees, yet she wondered if counties are applying the law as they should.
“I think a lot of sheriffs may not be aware of this specific law,” she said.
Greg Pruett, ISAA’s founder and president, told IdahoReporter.com he’s worried gun owners are carrying an undue burden, even after lawmakers tried to lighten the load earlier this year.
“I’m incredibly concerned Idaho sheriffs either don’t understand the new law, or they aren’t properly applying it,” said Pruett. “Why should gun owners in Driggs pay nearly double what Blackfoot residents spend on their Second Amendment rights?”
Pruett added a final thought. “In fact, I wonder why Idaho lawmakers force Idahoans to pay for their rights in the first place,” he said.
Scott, who worked with Pruett to sponsor House Bill 89 this year, a measure that would have allowed permitless concealed carry, said her measure would have fixed this problem.
“If House Bill 89 had been given a hearing, we might not be having this conversation right now,” she said.
Pruett harangued House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, into allowing House Bill 89’s introduction, but Loetscher refused to give the legislation a formal hearing.
Scott plans to fight harder in 2016, and not for a legislative fix for uniform fees.
“Do I want to fix the fees?” she asked. “No. I want to get rid of the permit.”