Council gives 1st passage to nixing concealed weapon fee

Posted 9/11/14

:“It’s fair and it’s a start.”

That’s how members of the Rhode Island Revolver and Rifle Association view first passage of an ordinance requiring Warwick Police to eliminate the $160 …

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Council gives 1st passage to nixing concealed weapon fee


:“It’s fair and it’s a start.”

That’s how members of the Rhode Island Revolver and Rifle Association view first passage of an ordinance requiring Warwick Police to eliminate the $160 processing fee for concealed weapons permits on Monday.

Introduced by Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, the ordinance has been viewed by gun advocates as enabling people to get a permit locally, while avoiding the ambiguity of legislation from the Attorney General. Under state legislation, the Attorney General “may” issue a permit after performing background checks. If, on the other hand, an applicant passes the background checks and a “show of need,” in the case of Warwick, as determined by the Board of Public Safety, the city “shall” issue a permit.

Stephen Hogan of the revolver and rifle association pointed out the difference between “may” and “shall” as substantial in the law. Hogan, his wife Gail, and several others from the association, attended Monday’s meeting, applauding when the council gave initial passage on a vote of 7-0. Two councilmen, Charles Donovan Jr. and Joseph Gallucci, were not present.

“We’ve been engaging in gun control in the city of Warwick and I’m opposed to that,” Vella-Wilkinson said, in remarks about the current processing fee.

She pointed to the disparity between the $40 licensing fee charged by the Attorney General and the $160 processing fee in Warwick. The Attorney General does not charge a processing fee. The $40 is paid when the permit, which is good for 4 years, is picked up.

Initially, Vella-Wilkinson’s legislation called for a $25 processing fee, however, she amended it to drop the charge.

Vella-Wilkinson said it’s not up to the city to determine the fee and Warwick “should get in line and charge $40.” She said that fee should apply for a new permit as well as a renewal. The licensing fee would only be paid when the permit is approved.

Furthermore, Vella-Wilkinson observed that Warwick Police don’t charge for a background check, so why should it be so costly to perform checks on those seeking a gun permit? She also noted that a suit against the processing fee has been withdrawn and dismissed without prejudice. The suit was argued as a reason to wait for legislation.

Col. Stephen McCartney said he has already arranged for changes in the department and that it would be implemented once the legislation gains second passage and is signed by the mayor. He estimated between eight and 12 applications were filed last year and five or six this year. He said the department performs much more than a background check and, in some instances, interviews with people who know the applicant. Unlike some municipalities, the city’s Board of Public Safety, not the department or the chief, make the decision after interviewing the applicant in an executive session.

McCartney said “need” is a major factor in the board’s deliberations.

McCartney said the department adopted the $160 processing fee in 2009 when, due to budget cuts, the department manpower dropped from 180 to 163. Without a reduction in the workload, the chief said he took into consideration the overtime costs of processing applications when arriving at a rate.

Since then, manpower has increased, responsibilities have been shifted and the process has become “more manageable.”

The concealed weapons permit should not be confused with the rights of an individual to purchase and own a gun, McCartney stressed. Gun dealers submit the names of those seeking to buy guns and police have seven days to do a background check. The numbers of people buying guns took a dramatic leap following the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“We were getting overwhelmed,” said McCartney.

He said the department was processing as many as 300 checks a month. That number has dropped, but he said it still remains relatively high.

The chief favors extensive scrutiny of individuals seeking concealed permits.

“Every time they [police] do a traffic stop, it is probably the most dangerous thing an officer can do,” he said.

He said he believes the Board of Public Safety has done a good job.

Vella-Wilkinson had the support of fellow councilman Ed Ladouceur (D-Ward 5).

“Government wants to make it more and more difficult and expensive … they treat fees as taxes. I don’t think they should be penalized because they chose to come to the city of Warwick,” he said.


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