On Monday, during the latest special session at the capitol to deal with the budget crisis, some staffers were grumbling about a proposal in the deficit mitigation bill that transfers the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Administrative Services and eliminates the one BFPE staffer.
And right there I just lost some of you. You’re wondering what the heck the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners does, what a Department of Administrative Services does, and who cares if one goes into the other?
The firearms board is the group residents turn to when their gun license has been denied or revoked. And it has come under fire – no pun intended – in recent years for being too darn slow in scheduling hearings (18 to 24 months in some cases). Lawsuits have been filed challenging the fairness of keeping folks with a permit appeal hanging for so long.
The complaint I heard in the capitol’s halls Monday, before the Democratic-majority General Assembly voted in favor of the deficit mitigation bill, was that moving that process to DAS is just going to make things worse.
So I reached out today to DAS and they are not particularly thrilled about this development. Here’s what Donna Micklus, a DAS spokesman, told me in an e-mail:
“Moving the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners under DAS was completely unanticipated by our agency since we weren’t party to any of the discussions, and we haven’t as yet had the chance to fully assess the impact.”
“However, since the move was ostensibly done to save the state $38,710, we have concerns whether any savings will be achieved. There is actually only $28,500 in BFPE’s account and most of that will have to go to pay the laid off employee’s salary for 4 to 6 weeks as required by law, paying her for vacation time if she leaves state service and to physically move the BFPE operations to DAS.”
“It is also our understanding that BFPE has a large backload of cases they are scheduled to hear and are involved in litigation for failure to provide Due Process to gun owners. This heightens our concern that the duties of BFPE staff are being assigned to an agency that has no knowledge or experience in the work they do. This is a heavy administrative burden; the duties performed by BFPE staff have no relevance to DAS core functions.”
I put in a call to Robert Cook, director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen. Cook said he was trying to understand exactly what the legislature did on Monday, but said on the face of it “this just causes more administrative chaos.”
“The (BFPE) employee is the only one there to process these appeals,” Cook said. “Loss of the employee is just going to make it go from 18 to 24 months to 24 to 36 months.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, whose caucus raised several concerns about the Democrats’ deficit mitigation bill, said he had not been aware of the concerns with the changes to the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners.
This is what happens, Cafero said, when the majority party is not serious about addressing the budget crisis and instead comes up with piecemeal solutions.
“You’re forced to do these cuts. So what happens? Friday you have this Board of Firearms Examiners and Monday it’s gone and Joe in the Department of Administrative Services is told ‘Hey Joe, make room, you’re the new firearms guy’ and he doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing. This is the way we’re running government, with no forethought or studying whatsoever,” Cafero said. “Then they make these cuts and people complain. It’s just the worst. And you’re going to see more of these things.”
UPDATE: It is December 28 and Rell today vetoed the deficit mitigation bill in part because of the issues outlined above.
“Many of the so-called ‘savings’ to be achieved in the bill are simply unworkable,” the Governor wrote in her veto message. “Department of Administrative Services does not have staff on board that provide services that are similar to what the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners will require. DAS, for instance, currently has no law enforcement authority, it does not issue any permits or licenses and does not conduct administrative hearings. In order for DAS to properly support the work of the board, therefore, DAS will need to hire additional staff for which no funding is provided. The projected savings associated with this provision are clearly overstated.”