Friday, February 13, 2004
Permit plan riles gun owners
Pataki wants to add costs to cut deficit
By Anthony Farmer
Pat Fairchild has been shooting for nearly three decades.
To her, it's just recreation, a form of relaxation.
She doesn't hunt and you won't catch her packing heat, walking around the streets like some cowboy.
''We take them to the range and we shoot,'' Fairchild said. ''We practice or compete.''
But when she steps up to the firing line at the shooting range, it's just her, the gun and the target.
It doesn't matter how big or small you are, how old you are or if you're a man or a woman, she said.
''It's a sport where a woman has the same advantage as a man,'' said Fairchild, who lives in the Town of East Fishkill. ''How many sports can you say that about?''
Costs could go up
But Fairchild and her family, and others like her, may soon be paying a lot more for their sport -- if Gov. George Pataki gets his way.
As part of his 2004-05 budget, Pataki has proposed making handgun permits, currently issued for life, renewable every five years, while tacking on other new fees. The plan has received little support in the Legislature.
If approved, Pataki's plan could raise as much as $11.3 million a year, according to the governor's budget office. The plan is aimed at helping the state close a budget deficit of $4 billion to $5 billion.
Pataki proposed charging $100 every five years for the permit, plus $25 for each additional handgun someone with a permit wants to use.
That doesn't include what a county would charge for handling the permitting process.
Pataki has proposed letting counties charge whatever they want for dealing with that responsibility.
Dutchess County Sheriff Butch Anderson said the current $10 application fee would have to be raised. The two full-time workers and one part-time workers handling pistol permits can't keep up with all the work they have now, he said.
''It's going to double our work,'' Anderson said.
Fairchild has three shooters in her family, including her husband and daughter. The three are all licensed to use any of the 10 handguns they own.
That would mean the family would have to pay nearly $1,000 every five years to maintain their hobby. And that's without whatever the county decides to charge.
While that's enough to get most gun owners riled up, there's more.
The fact they need a license in the first place, to exercise a Constitutional right guaranteed under the Second Amendment, is objectionable to them.
Most fear these kinds of steps will only lead to their guns -- used for sport and protection -- being taken away from them.
''It lays open the possibility that at any time, the state Legislature could say, 'We're not renewing them any more,' '' said Norm Dauerer, a Hopewell Junction resident and member of the Wallkill Rod & Gun Club. ''That's one way of getting in the back door and putting a ban on handguns.''
The proposal has received a cool reception from the state Senate's Republican majority. Pataki would need agreement from both houses of the state Legislature to put the plan in place.
Issue generates most reaction
One local senator said he's heard more from constituents about this issue than virtually any other related to the governor's budget plan.
''By far, the gun issue is the biggest,'' said Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope.
Sens. Steve Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, and Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, sent a joint memo to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno recently expressing their opposition to the plan.
''I don't think it's likely they'll be in the budget that's finally adopted,'' Saland said of the new fees.
Leibell predicted the proposal won't go anywhere.
''It's dead,'' Leibell said. ''It's not an appropriate revenue source.''
To some who own firearms, Pataki has abandoned his Republican/Conservative roots. To them, this latest proposal is another in a line of restrictions on gun owners put in place by the governor.
''We were better off under (Mario) Cuomo,'' David Warshaw, Dutchess County Chairman of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, or SCOPE, said of the former Democratic governor.
If the new fees do go through, there's nothing to stop them from going up every five years, Warshaw said.
At the very least, Warshaw said, anyone currently holding a lifetime permit should be grandfathered in under the proposed regulations, if approved.
''We were told they would be good for life, unless revoked for good cause,'' Warshaw said. ''I don't consider the budget good cause.''
On the Web
For information on obtaining a pistol permit, visit the Web sites of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office or the Ulster County Sheriff's Office.