Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to bolster state pistol permitting fees drew a sharp response from the National Rifle Association, a Connecticut-based advocacy group and top Republican officials.

The Democratic governor’s new two-year budget, released last Wednesday, would increase the state portion of the pistol permit fee from $70 to $300, and of the initial five-year permit from $140 to $370.

A separate background check fee would rise from $50 to $75.

These changes, which would take effect July 1, would raise an estimated $11.6 million per year, according to the administration.

“Governor Malloy’s proposed fee hikes on firearms will make it harder for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens to protect themselves,” Chris Kornacki, the NRA’s Connecticut legislative liaison, said Monday. “Some of our state’s poorest residents, many of whom live in high-crime neighborhoods, may not be able to afford a firearm for self-protection under Malloy’s proposed fee hikes.”

The NRA also released statements from Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. Wilson appeared recently on a web-based news channel hosted by the NRA.

“This will severely impact the ability of people to protect their families,” Wilson said during a Feb. 9 appearance on the web channel. “People who live in high-crime areas will possibly have to sacrifice their ability to carry a firearm to protect themselves.”

Wilson added that, “There’s going to be a serious fuss about this. I truly think that kicking the hornet’s nest of 250,000 pistol permit holders in Connecticut is really going to wake a lot of people up.”

The new fee structure is comparable to those set by New York City, Chris McClure, spokesman for the governor’s budget office, said Monday.

“Governor Malloy signed sweeping gun control reforms in 2013,” McClure said, adding that “those reforms, as well as discussion on national reforms, have led to an increased demand for gun permits and thus an increased workload for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection in processing the pistol permits, long-gun certificates and ammunition certificates. Raising the fee will cover the costs of the Connecticut State Police associated with these workload increases.”

Malloy’s proposals also drew criticism from Republican leaders.

“To single out those people who work hard, pay their taxes and want to exercise their Constitutional rights and protect their families is unfair,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “He and the Democrats have so mismanaged Connecticut’s finances for the last six years, and now he wants to double down and penalize those law-abiding citizens who want to own a gun, whether it is part of their employment, protection or for recreation.”

The Connecticut Republican Party announced it is offering a pistol permit course on March 5. Republican State Chairman J.R. Romano said the event had been planned since late 2016 and is not being held in response to the governor’s proposal.

But Romano said Malloy’s proposed increases are “cumbersome” and likely to harm both individuals and businesses in high-crime areas that need extra protection. “He’s trying to profit off of our rights,” Romano said.

The NRA, the defense league and the National Shooting Sports Foundation have scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. Friday in the Legislative Office Building to oppose the governor’s proposal.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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