IW concealed handgun fee too high?

Published 10:32 pm Monday, May 18, 2020

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Supervisor urges sheriff to consider reduction


A member of Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors has asked Sheriff James Clarke Jr. to consider lowering the county’s fee for a concealed handgun permit.

Currently, the county’s fee for obtaining a concealed carry permit, or for renewing one, is $50, the maximum allowed under Virginia law. Of this, $15 is mandated to be given to the state, with the other $35 going into the county’s general fund. Isle of Wight’s Circuit Court Clerk’s Office typically processes about 80 such permits each month, with the county budgeting $25,000 in anticipated revenue from this fee. In 2019, however, Isle of Wight saw an increase in the number of concealed carry permits issued, which brought in $26,400.

“I think a more fair approach, make the renewal $30 and keep the original [first-time application fee] $50,” said Newport District Supervisor William McCarty, who had been the one to bring the matter up at the board’s April 23 meeting.

McCarty, however, acknowledged that control of that fee was in Clarke’s hands, not his. In a Feb. 21 official advisory opinion, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring had informed Lunenburg County’s clerk of circuit court, Gordon Erby, that per his reading of state law, discretionary fees relating to the processing of a concealed handgun permit may be set, in part, by the sheriff conducting the background investigation and, in part, by the State Police.

“The county board of supervisors and the circuit court of the county in which the permit is to be issued are not statutorily authorized to set any portion of the fees,” Herring writes.

McCarty, who said he had learned of the attorney general’s opinion only earlier the day of the meeting, stated he had brought the matter up after a few residents had questioned him as to why the county’s initial application fee and renewal fee were the same.

“When you look at it just from a standpoint of background checks, we do them in our church for anyone who does any kind of work, $14.95 per person,” said McCarty, who in addition to being on the Board of Supervisors, is pastor of Healing Waters Worship Center in Carrollton. “That checks everything. I have a hard time believing it costs us $50 to process one of those [concealed carry permits].”

“This fee presents an obstacle, to some, to their right to bear arms,” Board Chairman Joel Acree agreed.

Acree then equated the issue to voter identification laws, which have been criticized in some states as being an impediment to voting rights. He added that in his opinion, the concealed carry permit fee was more of an impediment to Second Amendment rights than the requirement of an ID was to voting rights.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson disagreed, stating that those who can afford to spend several hundred dollars on a gun should be able and willing to pay a $50 fee for a permit. He added that reducing the county’s concealed carry fee would only benefit one group people, namely, gun owners.

“If we want to reduce a fee, let’s reduce a fee that going to benefit a majority of the people, taxpayers in the county,” Jefferson said.

Clarke said that in his eight years with the sheriff’s office and in all the time he has served as sheriff for Isle of Wight County, this was the first discussion he had heard of this fee. As for lowering it, the sheriff said he had no issue with discussing the matter, but did not elaborate as to his personal opinion on the fee or whether he would be inclined to reduce it.