This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The gang that couldn't shoot straight can't seem to get a handle on this concealed-carry permit business.
The problem, in a shotgun shell, is that it costs the Bureau of Criminal Identification more to do criminal background checks and other paperwork on people who apply for permits to carry concealed weapons than the Legislature provides. So, the BCI has to steal money and personnel from elsewhere in its budget to get the job done. That, in turn, causes delays in vital work the BCI does for law enforcement agencies and other programs.
For example, there is a four-month backlog in criminal background checks for public schoolteachers.
The Legislature has known about this problem since 2001, when its auditor general reported that the concealed-carry permits were not self-supporting and recommended that legislative appropriations and fees be increased.
The Legislature has done neither. But at least this year, Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, came up with a bill that allowed the BCI to keep the fees it charges for permits rather than giving them to the General Fund. That would have pumped $654,000 in new revenues into the BCI.
Unfortunately, there was no mechanism identified to make up the loss to the General Fund, and in the waning days of the session, Oda's bill was amended to eliminate $654,000 in General Fund appropriation at the same time the BCI got the same amount as a dedicated credit.
The upshot is that the agency will be living hand to mouth until fees come in. And because of other language in Oda's bill, it has no flexibility to shift the credit revenue to pay for other programs.
This is coming as requests for concealed-carry permits are at an all-time high, not only from Utahns but from out-of-state applicants. You don't have to be a Utahn to get one, and the Utah permit is valid in many other states.
It is frustrating that the Legislature has been unwilling to solve so simple a problem. The answer, as the auditor general suggested years ago, is to make the fees cover the costs of the program. In 2001, the $35 fee for a new permit came close to covering costs, but the $10 renewal did not. They should be adjusted.
And there's no reason why General Fund revenues from Utah taxpayers should subsidize permits for residents of other states.