The Corner

Connecticut Moves to Restrict the Second Amendment to Rich People

In Connecticut, Governor Malloy is moving to increase the cost of a firearms permit. The New Haven Register reports:

Gun owners will see huge increases in permit fees that would raise millions of dollars to help the state combat its two-year, $3.6 billion deficit.

As part of his budget, Malloy is proposing to increase the state portion of the pistol permit fee from $70 to $300. He also is proposing the cost of the initial 5-year pistol permit fee from $140 to $370.

The increase in fees for gun owners will bring in another $9 million to the state annually, according to the governor’s budget estimates.

Additionally, Malloy is proposing to increase background check fees from its current $50 to $75.

If he is successful, that will set the cost of a first-time gun permit at $445, and the cost of renewal at $300.

Although I strongly disagree with it, I understand the intellectual case in favor of pistol permits per se — especially in states such as Connecticut, where a permit acts as a one-time permission slip to do everything associated with guns (buy, own, carry, etc.). In the view of the gun-control movement, the permitting system serves to weed out those who are disqualified from ownership, as well as to ensure that the police know who is carrying and who is not. Because the system is open to abuse, leads to situations such as Carol Bowne’s, and seems to have no positive effect in comparison with similar states that don’t issue permits (see Vermont and Maine), I strongly oppose it. But I can at least acknowledge the argument. Guns are dangerous weapons. It’s not inherently unreasonable to want some regulation, nor, if a permitting system is to exist, to ask users to cover their costs.

I cannot, however, understand the argument in favor of high fees for pistol permits. If the case for permits is to distinguish between the law-abiding and the criminal, the case for high fees is to distinguish between the rich and the poor. In and of itself, that is disgusting. But applied to a constitutionally enumerated right that has been routinely recognized as such by the Supreme Court? That’s pitchfork time. And to come from the Democratic party, which views itself as being on the side of the poor, and which is institutionally opposed to voter identification laws on the grounds that one should not have to pay or be inconvenienced in order to vote? That’s just too much. (Why isn’t this a “poll tax” or “Jim Crow“? And you can’t answer, “because I choose not to accept that the Second Amendment exists.”) I understand that Governor Malloy doesn’t like guns. But I also don’t care. The law is the law. He doesn’t get to edit the Bill of Rights.

The best case that can be made is that Malloy is trying to balance the budget on the backs of those whose behavior he dislikes. In a vacuum, this would be unpleasant. But when the behavior in question is legally protected, it is an outrage. Make no mistake: This isn’t about covering user costs; it’s not about safety; and it’s not about Newtown. It’s about a state government being willing to restrict a core individual right because it happens to dislike its scope. I can only hope that the state Senate — now split evenly between Democrats and Republicans — puts the kibosh on the idea post haste.

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