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Harford sheriff supports governor's proposal to eliminate handgun license fee

Harford Sheriff Jeff Gahler supports a measure by Gov. Larry Hogan to repeal the $50 fee to file a handgun permit application.
Harford Sheriff Jeff Gahler supports a measure by Gov. Larry Hogan to repeal the $50 fee to file a handgun permit application. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS FILE PHOTO)

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who is working with state legislators during the Maryland General Assembly session in Annapolis to modify portions of the state's gun laws, recently expressed his support of a proposal by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to eliminate a $50 application fee for a handgun license.

"I am pleased that the governor has recognized the unfair burden this fee has on law-abiding citizens' ability to exercise their Second Amendment right," Gahler wrote in an email Tuesday.

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Gahler, a Republican, has been working with legislators, who represent Harford County and Anne Arundel County, to introduce bills during this year's session to reduce the license fee from $50 to $25. He also is working with them on legislation to allow corrections officers and retired federal law enforcement officials to be exempt from training when applying for a license and to allow the state to grant a temporary waiver from firearms training for applicants who are in imminent danger.

Republican Del. Michael Malone, of Anne Arundel, said before the session started Jan. 13 that he plans to introduce a bill that would reduce the fee. Gahler said he would work with legislators to withdraw the bill, if Hogan's proposal moves forward.

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"If introduced, we would fully support the governor's proposal and work with our local legislators to withdraw the legislation that has been introduced to reduce the fee," Gahler stated.

The governor introduced a proposal to get rid of the entire application fee as part of a five-year effort to cut $71 million worth of fees, many of them instituted by his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, The Baltimore Sun reported earlier this week.

O'Malley also championed stringent gun laws during his final term, laws that were passed by the majority-Democrat General Assembly in 2013, although Hogan said before the session that he did not plan to make any changes to the current gun laws.

"I am hopeful that the attention myself and other law enforcement chiefs have given this, and other Second Amendment issues, helped bring it to the forefront of the governor's priorities," Gahler said.

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Hogan's staff could not be reached for comment regarding eliminating the application fee.

The current gun laws went into effect Oct. 1, 2013. As of that date, any Maryland resident who wants to purchase, rent or transfer a handgun must have a valid Handgun Qualification License, according to a Maryland State Police web page on the application process.

"You do not need a Handgun Qualification License to own a gun you already have," according to the web page.

Prospective applicants for a license must pass a "fingerprint-based background check" and complete a minimum four-hour Firearms Safety Training Course before they submit their application online, according to the web page.

First-time applicants must pay $50, as well as any applicable fingerprinting fees. It costs $20 to renew a handgun license, and license holders do not have to get fingerprinted again, according to the web page.

Those who are exempt from the requirement to possess a handgun license include licensed firearms manufacturers, licensed firearms dealers, active-duty or retired law enforcement officers "in good standing," active-duty or retired members of the military or National Guard with valid military identification and people who purchase, rent or receive a federally defined "antique, curio or relic" firearm, according to the web page.

Visit http://mdsp.maryland.gov and enter the search term "Handgun Qualification License" for more information.

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