- Gov. Philip Murphy is proposing gun fee increases that are 20 times current levels to curb violence and illegal gun traffic in the state.
- Democratic lawmakers fear the increase will be seen as yet another major tax increase for the state.
- Gun owners view increases as “bullying” for sportsmen already forced to pay exorbitant fees.
New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Philip Murphy is getting resistance from both sides regarding his budget proposal to raise gun permitting fees substantially, according to reports.
New Jersey will have even higher gun permit fees than New York if the governor’s fee increases, proposed in early March, make it into the state’s budget. A carry permit would be $400, an identification card $100 and a gun owner’s permit would be $50, The New York Times reported Monday. Currently, those fees are $20, $5 and $2, respectively, and have not been adjusted since 1966.
Democratic colleagues fear the increase will be viewed as another substantial tax increase, like several others New Jersey has recently enacted, the Trenton Bureau reported, including higher fees on Uber, gasoline, e-cigarettes and online purchases.
“I recognize fees have to be adjusted,” Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli said in April, according to New Jersey 101.5. Calling the increase “a little bit steep,” he said: “[I] don’t want to see fees adjusted to a point that they become steep, that they may drive a person who would follow a legal process in a different direction because they can’t come up with the money that we’re now demanding they come up with.”
Murphy believes the increase in fees will discourage people from purchasing firearms, thereby reducing gun violence and lowering the number of illegal guns coming into the state. He wants the increased revenue to be applied to programs that combat gun violence.
“We can support the efforts of the attorney general, state troopers, county and local law enforcement, to do the stuff we need to do: track crime, track gun violence, combat trafficking of illegal guns,” Murphy said to The Times. “There’s no war on responsible gun owners.”
“I was in Jersey City,” the governor continued. “It’s at least $10 to get a dog license in Jersey City. It’s still $2 to get a permit to purchase a firearm in New Jersey.”
Some gun policy experts are not convinced raising fees alone will tackle illegal guns. Arguing that states with tighter restrictions attract illegal gun trade from states where the laws are more relaxed, John Jay College criminal justice professor Daniel Feldman said, according to The Times: “Most crime guns in the Northeast are thought to come from the ‘iron pipeline’ from the South, and then they’re sold on the street.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a group funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said it does believe increased fees may decrease gun crimes. “We think it’s a smart way to legislate,” said Jonas Oransky, legal director for the group.
“We support strong data-driven intervention programs, and think that it makes sense to fund them by raising revenue from gun purchasers,” Oransky added, according to The Times.
Gun rights advocates have protested the higher fees. “You’re talking about sportsmen that are already paying hundreds of dollars a year in license fees,” Cody McLaughlin, spokesman for the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, said according to the report. “This is clear bullying of law-abiding gun owners in the state.”
“I think what Murphy would want to happen is for every gun shop in the state of New Jersey to just close,” said Lisa Caso, owner of Caso’s Gun-A-Rama in Jersey City.
Murphy’s proposals include a firearms tax of 2.5 percent and an ammunition tax of 10 percent. Discussions are ongoing and will not be finalized until the state legislature passes its budget, which is required by June 30.
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