By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Attorney General Jim Hood has issued an opinion stating the Department of Public Safety does not have the authority to increase the fee to gun permit holders by $6.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who criticized the fee increase during a contentious meeting with DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz during Legislative Budget Committee hearings in September, is calling on the $6 to be reimbursed to the gun permit holders.
Warren Strain, a DPS spokesman, said based on the attorney general’s opinion released Monday, the department is no longer charging the additional $6 to issue the gun permits.
Plus, Strain said the agency is working to reimburse the $6 fee to concealed carry permit holders.
In a prepared statement Monday, the Republican Reeves compared DPS to the administration of President Barack Obama and said, “The commissioner’s action clearly violates state law, demonstrates a lack of leadership and makes it appear he wants to be in the gun control business.
“Mississippians are tired of government reaching deeper into their pockets to justify agency overspending. I expect the DPS commissioner to follow the law immediately and offer refunds to law-abiding gun owners who have been overcharged for their right to carry a concealed weapon.”
Strain said the department increased the fee July 1 because the vendor increased the costs to DPS for producing the permits by $6 to cover the costs of the permit holder’s photograph. He said DPS would have to absorb those costs, based on the ruling. Despite the increase by the vendor, “these fees, being set by statute are not susceptible to being increased by the Department,” the AG’s opinion said.
Official opinions issued by the attorney general’s office do not carry the weight of law, but protect public officials who adhere to them from lawsuits.
The law allows the department to charge $100, plus $32 for mandated fingerprinting to obtain a standard concealed carry permit.
Late Monday, Santa Cruz said in a prepared statement, “We work hard to expedite concealed carry permits and the charge was simply to cover our costs. … Any other political posturing is misguided.”
Since July 1, Strain said 5,196 concealed carry permits have been issued.
When asked about the AG’s ruling, Mick Bullock, a spokesman for Gov. Phil Bryant, who appoints the DPS commissioner, said questions about the issue should be directed to the Department of Public Safety.
Strain said the vendor also increased the cost of producing the photo for other items issued by Public Safety, such as driver’s license and identification cards, but that state law allows the agency to recoup those costs from applicants.