“Gun Trust Fund” Protects Exercise of Constitutional Right
by Marion P. Hammer
This letter to the editor is in response to a recent OpEd in the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, FL: RE: Editorial “Setting up gun fund as sacred cow is poor budget management”
Fort Lauderdale, FL – -(AmmoLand.com)- Poor budget management is robbing trust funds period.
For years the legislature fought gun owners over paying for a statewide licensing program that would provide uniformity and fairness to gun owners. Legislators did not want taxpayers to fund a gun program. Gun owners are tax payers too and wanted tax dollars to fund the program.
In 1987, the concealed firearms licensing law passed with a financial contingency.
The legislature insisted that the gun owner program not be dependent upon General Revenue or any government funding whatever.
The NRA, Unified Sportsmen of Florida and gun owners, insisted upon only being responsible for funding the program. They insisted that licensing fees only be an amount necessary to administer the program, no more, no less. Further, they insisted that the fees be held in a trust fund and used solely for the benefit of and administration of the program and never used for any other purpose.
That was the agreement. Language was put in the bill to insure that the terms of the agreement were met.
Gun owners have kept their part of the agreement. In the 22 plus years that this program has been in effect, not one single dime has ever come from general revenue or any other government fund — 100% of the funding has come from gun owners.
In keeping with good management practices, the trust fund is allowed to build funds in excess of current needs so that when the massive computers, both hardware and software, need to be repaired or replaced, and other equipment is needed to provide efficient administration of the program, money will be available. That is the only way to run the program without raising license fees.
Now the other half of the agreement needs to be kept.
Last year when the program needed to use trust fund money to hire new employees to keep up with the dramatic increase of license applications and clear the backlog of unprocessed applications, the legislature attempted to take $6 million from the trust fund. That not only would have crippled the program but it violated the agreement, the spirit of the law and the trust of gun owners.
Governor Charlie Crist stepped up and vetoed the raid on that trust fund, protecting the program and the agreement. No other trust fund has the same agreement and requirements as this one.
Further, there are legal ramifications that go beyond the agreement. This specific trust fund facilitates the exercise of a constitutional right.
- When government takes citizen money for general use by government, it's a tax.
- When government confiscates user fees from trust funds intended to be used to administer specific programs and converts it to government use for other purposes, it's a tax.
- When government leaders claim to oppose tax increases and promise not to create new taxes but then raid trust funds, they have created a new tax.
If the Legislature raids the concealed firearms licensing trust fund, they have created a tax on the exercise of the Second Amendment right.
Courts have ruled that states may not tax the exercise of a right protected by the federal constitution. Passing this new legislation to insure that this trust fund is protected is appropriate.
Marion P. Hammer is past president of the National Rifle Association and Executive Director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida. She has represented gun owners in Florida
for 35 years.