On March 1, the application cost in Cobb will increase to $79.25 from $72.25. This passes on an increase in the fee charged by the Georgia Crime Information Center for a fingerprint-based background check, now $44.25. Three years ago the application fee charged by probate courts jumped from $15 to $30 as the result of legislation enacted by the General Assembly.
The higher fee by GCIC applies for all licensing purposes, employment and contractors, spokesman John Bankhead of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed last week, per news reports. The increase reportedly results from significant shortfalls in state revenues. Incidentally, state law says the GBI “may charge such fee as is necessary to cover the cost of the records search.”
Of course, the fee hike is a tax increase thinly disguised. Everywhere you look, there are fees and/or taxes on just about everything. It calls to mind Ronald Reagan’s famous comment: “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
To obtain a weapons carry license, the applicant must be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background investigation by the GBI and the FBI. The process may take up to one month. The license is for five years and may be renewed with payment of the fees all over again.
Despite the steadily increasing cost of licenses, demand has been setting records in Cobb. For 2012, total applications for permits hit 8,094. In January there were 1,864 applications and 278 through the first six days of February. Probate Judge Kelli Wolk told me: “We’re running numbers that were unthinkable a couple of years ago.” She said, “On a slow day we now do about 75 applications.”
Likewise, neighboring Cherokee County is receiving applications at a record clip. Last year’s 3,500 applications set a record, said Probate Judge Keith Wood. This year, more than 1,100 applications had been submitted through the middle of last week.
Meanwhile, bills sponsored by state Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) to repeal Georgia laws restricting concealed weapons have been parked in a committee, apparently going nowhere in favor of a bill authorizing the arming of school administrators. Gregory’s bill would outright eliminate the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the state.
In Washington, the campaign by President Obama to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines has run into tough sledding, but a group of senators including some conservative Republicans are trying to find a compromise requiring background checks for far more purchasers of guns.
It will spur more people to buy guns. As Cherokee Judge Wood said of the application fee hike: “It’ll increase the complaining but I don’t think it’ll decrease the flow.”