Concealed weapons cost shoots up

Fee for permit renewal criminal background check goes from $5 to $20

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SHAWN GUST/Press Bob Reish, of Post Falls, fires a pistol at Center Target Sports on Wednesday. Kootenai County raising the fee for criminal background checks for concealed weapons permit renewals.

COEUR d'ALENE - Concealed weapons carriers in Kootenai County will fork over more cash to renew their permits, due to a newly approved fee hike.

But that doesn't seem to rankle gun owners.

"I figure with the cost of guns and ammo, just a couple dollars more isn't going to crimp the business," said Nathaniel Pulliam, safety officer at the Coeur d'Alene Rifle and Pistol Club.

The Kootenai County commissioners on Tuesday voted 2-0 to raise the fee for a permit renewal criminal background check from $5 to $20.

The commissioners made the fee retroactively effective for Oct. 2, to coordinate with the date of the state's same fee change.

The county has to match the state's rate, explained Maj. Ben Wolfinger with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department. The county simply collects the fees and passes them on to the state, he said, which conducts the background checks.

"We have no control over what the state charges," Wolfinger said, attributing the state's higher fee to the cost of doing business.

"We have no overhead cost on this. We make no money off this."

The state is raising concealed weapon permit fees over a stepped period, according to staff at the state Bureau of Criminal Identification.

The state's fingerprint fee for new permit background checks also rose this year from $10 to $17.50. It will rise to $25 next July.

The only fee boost the county will see for now is for the renewal background check, confirmed Linda Mattos, records supervisor with the sheriff's department.

But the county will have to bump up fees again next year to meet the state's increase, she said.

"We match what the state's charging," Mattos said.

Because of the lag time after reminder renewal notices are mailed, Wolfinger said gun owners shouldn't be affected by the raised fee until November.

Kootenai County charges $20 for original issuance of a 5-year CWP, $34 for the initial criminal background check and $5 for the permit itself and a reminder mailer.

For renewal permits, applicants must pay $15 for the renewal, $5 for the permit itself and a reminder mailer, and now $20 for an updated criminal background check.

Only a few gun owners have complained about fees, Wolfinger said.

"We explain, 'this is just what the state charges us,'" he said. "They may not like it, but they realize it's not our fault."

There's no doubting the popularity of CWPs in Kootenai County. The sheriff's department issued 1,173 concealed carry permits last year. Lt. Andy Boyle said on Wednesday that the county has issued roughly 900 applications for new CWPs this year, and about 675 for renewals.

Owner of a concealed weapon for six years, Pulliam said he doesn't mind paying a little more to keep it.

"It would probably be a good idea to raise those fees," Pulliam said, adding that there might be high costs for processing information. "Just to help out with those costs."

Ed Santos, owner of Center Target Sports in Post Falls, said there are other issues besides costs that irk local gun owners.

"What would go a long way to getting concealed weapons applicants to accept the new fee is to speed up the investigative process," said Santos, who has heard of applications taking up to 12 weeks to process through the county. "That's been the biggest frustration, people concerned with how long it takes to do the background check."

Neither fees nor long waits will likely stop people from seeking concealed weapons, Santos acknowledged.

He pointed out that Center Target Sports has trained 8,000 students in its concealed carry class.

"(Protection) is one of the biggest motivators we see," he said, happy to share anecdotes about students who went on to intercede in violent situations. "People understand that the ultimate need to self-protect is their own."

Bob Reish of Post Falls, who stopped by Center Target Sports on Wednesday for target practice, said he does plan to renew his CWP, with the knowledge that the higher fee makes the permit possible.

"Of course when anything goes up, it's never pleasant," Reish said. "But with the background checks, I know there's a reason for it."

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