Lawmakers voted to indefinitely postpone a bill Jan. 9 that would increase the cost of handgun permits.
LB81, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, would increase the $5 permit fee to $25. Blood said the number of permit requests has increased as much as 400 percent in the last 10 years, but the counties’ processing fee has remained unchanged for 25 years.
“The crux of this issue is making sure counties have the resources they need to follow the laws [that the Legislature] has set forward,” she said. “This is not a bill taking aim at law-abiding gun owners or trying to place undue pressure on them.”
Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha supported the bill. He said the increased fee is reasonable and would not restrict any person’s access to owning a firearm.
“Just because you have a right, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay a fee, as long as it’s reasonable,” Harr said.
Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, in opposition to the bill, said that increasing the permit fee could prevent some people from owning a firearm. LB81 would place an unreasonable burden on people who want to exercise their constitutionally protected rights, he said.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha disagreed, saying there is precedent for charging fees or taxes on the exercise of constitutional rights. The government can charge property taxes on a home even though the right to own a home is protected under the Constitution, he said.
Chambers said the bill was an example of a necessary fee, whose increase he would support.
Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman filed an amendment to require the state to pay all permit fees, including the increased fee proposed by the bill. He called LB81 an unfunded mandate that would place an undue burden on counties.
“If we’re going to require the county to carry this out, [the state] should pay for it,” Erdman said. “Let’s discontinue putting unfunded mandates on our counties and cities.”
The amendment failed on a 16-26 vote.
Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne said that extending the length of the permit would ease the financial strain of a fee increase. He introduced an amendment, adopted 36-10, that would extend the permit renewal period from every three years to every five years.
After several hours of debate, Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill introduced a motion to indefinitely postpone the bill. The motion was adopted on a 27-17 vote, ending consideration of the bill for the session.