Just over $9 million in new or higher taxes and fees related to guns would be imposed in New Jersey under plans included in Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget.

Murphy called for a tax on gun sales as a candidate, and his first budget blueprint a year ago included $1.4 million toward that end. It wasn’t approved by lawmakers but is now part of a larger package of planned changes.

  • Firearms fees, most which haven’t been altered since 1966, would increase significantly by as much as 25-fold, yielding $3.912 million in revenue.
  • A new excise tax on ammunition sales of 10 percent would generate $3.2 million.
  • A new excise tax on firearms sales of 2.5 percent would generate $1.4 million.
  • Hunters would pay $100 for a black bear permit, rather than $2. This is projected to produce $500,000 in additional revenue.

“It was long past time that we did this last year, when we took so many steps to restore our standing as a national leader in gun safety. And it’s even more past time today,” Murphy said.

“We’re not being terribly radical on this. Our current gun fees were set in 1966,” Murphy said. “It’s now 2019. It’s actually cheaper to get a permit to purchase a handgun, $2, than it is to get a dog license in many of our communities.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, didn’t dismiss the idea but didn’t sound receptive to it.

“I think we’ve done a lot of gun reform in this state. We are the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to gun reform. And just to check a box to say you did something, I’m not sure that’s necessary,” Sweeney said. “And I don’t think it’s going to raise a lot of money. But I’m always open. This is the beginning of the budget discussion. You never say never on anything, until we get through.”

Gun fees would increase from $5 to $100 for a firearms purchaser identification card and from no charge to $50 for a duplicate ID card; from $2 to $50 for a permit to purchase; from $20 to $400 for applications or renewals of gun-carry permits; and from $15 to $45 for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System review for firearms purchases.

Applications for wholesale or retail dealer employee licenses would go from $5 to $40; applications for retail firearms dealer licenses would go from $50 to $500; and applications for manufacturers or wholesale dealers of firearms would go from $150 to $1,500.

Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, the National Rifle Association affiliate in New Jersey, said Murphy wants to “tax gun owners into oblivion.”

“Gov. Murphy's outrageous new proposal punishes law-abiding gun owners for the acts of criminals and madmen, chills the exercise of Second Amendment rights and unfairly discriminates against lower-income populations,” Bach said. “If the Legislature doesn't reject this proposal again, as it did last year, we are prepared to take legal action."

Murphy, in a Facebook Live event, said the revenues could be used indirectly to support law enforcement budgets that include efforts to address the flow of illegal guns into the state that are then used in crimes.

“I have no issue with the Second Amendment, and I have no issue with law-abiding gun owners,” Murphy said. “This is simple: The gun permits haven’t been raised since 1966. It’s $2 to get a license. In most communities in the state, a dog license is much more. I’m only asking: let’s get this to a reasonable place.”

“I’m not trying to gouge people,” Murphy said. “Again, 1966. Two dollars. Let’s get that to some reasonable amount – not an unreasonable amount, a reasonable amount, by 2019 standards. That’s all I’m asking.”

The proposed increase in bear-hunting fees comes after a season in which the hunt occurred despite Murphy’s opposition but was significantly curtailed when the governor ordered that hunting couldn’t occur on state-owned lands.

The number of bears killed in 2018, 225, was the fewest in the 11 hunts conducted since 2003.

Currently, bear hunting permits in New Jersey are valid only in a specific zone. The area designated for bear hunting is broken up into five zones, so for hunters who typically obtain permits for more than one zone, it could either cost them multiples of $100 or prompt them to scale back their plans.

Cody McLaughlin, a trustee for the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, called the entire tax and fee plan “ridiculous.”

“Gov. Murphy's constant end runs around the rights of sportsmen and gun owners to pursue the wild places and wild things we love is both concerning and ill-advised. We should be focusing on things that improve public safety rather than bullying private citizens,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said hunters typically buy permits for two or three zones, to have adequate land to cover and different locations to try. Hunters are only allowed one bear per segment.

“One would hope he would spend as much time managing his snow removal budget as he does the lives of law-abiding New Jerseyans practicing traditions as old as mankind,” he said.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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