http://www.centredaily.com/2010/02/07/1 ... z0f3aXDn7p
Permit law changes could cost county
February 7, 2010 1:27pm EST
When someone asks Ken Hanson with the Buckeye Firearms Association where to go for a Pennsylvania firearms license, he points them to the Centre County Sheriff’s Office.
“I know from experience that Centre County has a professional operation and gets the license turned around,” said Hanson, legislative chairman of the Ohio group.
The reputation draws thousands of out-of-state applications for licenses to carry concealed firearms into Centre County each year — and thousands of dollars in revenue for the county. But that money will likely dry up in 2011 when a state law aimed at standardizing and modernizing Pennsylvania’s licensing takes effect.
According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, one change will be that gun owners applying for Pennsylvania licenses to carry will have to appear in person to have a photo license created and sign for it. The commission is implementing the system, under the 2005 law, with state police and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.
While some counties already issue licenses with photos or require in-person applications, Centre County doesn’t. Sheriff Denny Nau said the county processed about 9,900 licenses to carry last year, more than half of them from out of state. Nau said the new system will be nicer and easier, but it will probably mean a huge drop in the number of licenses his office processes and the money that it brings in. At $26 a license, with $20 of that going to the county, processing those out-of-state applications brought in almost $100,000 a year.
“We didn’t start this as a revenue (generator) because we never thought it was going to be like this,” Nau said. Centre County’s status as a magnet for out-of-state applications apparently had its start in 2004, because of changes in concealed weapons permitting in Missouri.
The commonwealth has reciprocity agreements with 17 states that recognize Pennsylvania licenses to carry a concealed gun. At that time, Missouri’s permitting was caught up in legal wrangling and the state temporarily stopped issuing permits.
Missourians began to turn to Pennsylvania for weapons permits that would be recognized in the Show Me State. Nau said that his office got a phone call from a Missourian inquiring about getting a license, and that information ended up being posted on the World Wide Web. And things snowballed.
“Centre County got hundreds of requests,” Nau said.
Even though things have changed in Missouri, the requests are still coming.
Jim Bonner, of Sidney, N.Y., wanted to get a license to carry that would be recognized in Georgia, where his brother has a farm that is being plagued with wild hogs.
“They’re very vicious and very big, and it’s nice to have a handgun in case something goes wrong,” he said.
Bonner said he has a New York license but, unlike Pennsylvania, New York does not have reciprocal agreements with other states. He was advised to obtain a Pennsylvania license, and when he did an Internet search, Centre County popped up.
He printed the application, filled it out and mailed it to Nau’s office with a copy of his concealed weapon permit from New York, a copy of his driver’s license and a $26 check.
“It was actually fairly simple,” he said.
Under the new state law, counties will have to have systems — including photo machines, driver’s license swipers and electronic signature pads — that meet the state requirements in place by the end of March 2011.
Pike County Sheriff Philip Bueki said while some counties already issue permit cards with photographs, most of those systems won’t meet the state regulations that are being implemented. Bueki is the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association representative on the advisory committee that is helping the state implement the new system.
He said the changes are a question of safety and security. That means presenting an identification in person. Out-of-state mail-in applications, he said, are “going to come to a screeching halt.”
When an applicant does show up in person at a county sheriff’s office, his or her driver’s license will be swiped and the information automatically transferred into the system. That will be submitted to state police for a background check.
“I think it’s a great move,” Bueki said. “I think we have a couple of concerns with it. When anything new comes out, it gets confusing. A lot of people are resistant to change. But I think as serious as carrying a permit is, it should be uniform throughout the state.”
The fee that counties charge to process each license includes $5 that has been going to a state fund set up specifically to help counties pay for the change. Centre County and others have been applying for $15,000 noncompetitive grants to pay for the needed equipment.
Bueki said one of the concerns is how counties will pay for equipment upgrades or repairs in the future, after the $5 fee and the $1 million in funding it was meant to create is gone.
“It’s nice to implement it. We raised over a million dollars to do it, but counties are having a tough time now,” he said. “It’s not fair to ask them to shell out the money (for future equipment). It’s a state mandate.”
Nau said he would like the state to let counties keep the $5 fee in place.
“We could send that money to the county, to help pay for equipment down the road,” he said.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648.
Read more: http://www.centredaily.com/2010/02/07/1 ... z0wmGYO893http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/leg ... 17&pn=2918