Probate Court Judge Keith Wood, whose office issues all weapons carry licenses for applicants living in Cherokee, said the higher fees are based on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation increasing the cost to perform a fingerprint-based background check.
For all applicants who apply before midnight Feb. 28, the cost to apply is $72.25 and includes a $30 application fee, a $5 fingerprinting fee and a fee of $37.25 to obtain state and federal background checks through the GBI.
Beginning March 1, the new cost to apply for a license in Cherokee County will be $79.25 due to the GBI increasing their fee to $44.25. Both the application and fingerprinting fees are unchanged, Wood said.
GBI spokesman John Bankhead confirmed Tuesday the increase applies for all licensing purposes, employment and contractors.
According to the statement posted on the state bulletin, the increase is due to significant revenue shortfalls experienced by the state of Georgia.
Wood said in Cherokee all parts of the process, including the submission of fingerprints, mandatory background checks, and photographing for the license, are performed in the Probate Court office.
After a surge in applications in late 2012, Wood said he doesn’t think the $7 increase will prevent many from applying.
“It’ll increase complaining, but I don’t think it’ll decrease the flow,” Wood said.
Last year, Wood said the Cherokee County Probate Court received a record 3,500 weapons carry license applications. As of Wednesday, more than 1,100 applications have been submitted in 2013.
After lines out the door were reported in December, Wood said it has eased up.
“I don’t know that February will be as big (as January), but I guess that remains to be seen,” Wood said. “I don’t anticipate averaging 1,000 per month. That would surprise me, but I never really know.”
Sheriff Roger Garrison, who recently gained media attention after penning a letter taking a stand against proposed federal gun control measures, said he was not surprised by the uptick in weapons carry license applications and believes it to be a matter of “good people” getting their permits in order.
“I think guns are already out there and I think more people going ahead to get concealed carry permits because the laws have changed over last couple of years to carry in more places. I also think more people are concerned about personal safety,” Garrison said.
He also said he encourages any new gun owner to take a gun safety course. He said introductory gun courses, offered at many local gun shops like Big Woods Goods and Hi-Caliber Firearms, get people familiar with guns.
An employee at Big Woods Goods, who requested to not have his name published, said the Canton gun store offers gun safety classes several times a month that typically get a lot of interest from members of the community.
He recommended new gun owners to take the store’s basic arms training course, which costs $85 and includes two hours of classroom instruction and two hours of gun range training.
“You learn how to shoot, clean, how the gun functions,” the employee said. “It takes you from knowing nothing to know how to properly carry a weapon.”
The Cherokee County Probate Court accepts weapons carry license applications from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Wood said the court may be required to stop taking applications at 4 p.m. depending on the number of applicants waiting.
A notice is also posted on the court’s website notifying applicants that due to “overwhelming demand” and an “understaffed office,” there are substantial delays in processing and issuing licenses. The notice also warns that any complaints about the increased fee should be directed to the GBI and not the Probate Court.
For information as to what is required to apply for a weapons carry license, contact the court’s information line at (770) 704-2610 or go to the Probate Court website located under the Department menu at www.cherokeega.com.