BENTON -- Scott County residents with a desire to pack hidden heat can begin applying for a permit to do so April 1.
Sheriff Bill Ferrell said his office has everything in place to begin processing applications for concealed firearm permits. "This is the third time we've been set up and ready to go," he said. "We're going to go ahead with it this time."
Application forms are already integrated into the department's software.
"We've been kind of waiting for a decision from the Attorney General's office regarding this fee situation," Captain Jerry Bledsoe said.
With the ongoing uncertainty as to when the Attorney General's Office would make a decision, the sheriff and his office found themselves "between a rock and a hard place," Bledsoe said. "People are suing sheriffs for issuing permits, people are suing sheriffs for not issuing permits."
The sheriff decided to comply with the statute by issuing, but not charging for, the permits. "Initially it was suggested that we charge $100," Bledsoe said, with $38 going for the background check and $62 going into revolving fund for equipment and training.
Even if a fee was charged, it wouldn't have gone toward additional personnel. "We were going to have to use what manpower we had, what equipment we had in place," Ferrell said.
Existing department staff will process the applications and issue permits in a process no more difficult than permits to purchase or acquire a handgun the department has already been issuing. "I don't think it will increase our costs," said Ferrell.
And with no cost to the taxpayer for the permit and no fee being collected, Ferrell said the Hancock Amendment, which, among other things, prohibits the state from passing down mandates for the counties to establish services without appropriating funding for the service, does not apply.
Scott County residents applying for a concealed weapon permit will pay $38 to the Criminal Records Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol for the background check. The sheriff's department will fingerprint applicants and forward the prints and background check payment.
Applicants must also be at least 23 years old and have completed an approved training course. "And they have to show proof of that to us," Bledsoe said. The course does not have to be taken in Scott County "as long as it's a course that has been taught by a firearms instructor who is either a NRA or state or federally certified firearms instructor."
The department then waits on the background check to be returned before issuing the permit.
"The sheriff has a right to deny (the permit) if there has been some type of problem showing that the person is mentally unstable or something of that nature," Bledsoe said.
Felony convictions also disqualify applicants.
"If we have not received the background check back within 45 days then we have to go ahead and issue the permit," Bledsoe said.
He added there might be a slight chance of a background check backlog "if this thing kicks off and everybody starts doing it," although he predicted that locally "I really don't think we'll have a great big crowd of people. ... Nothing really to speak of."
Scott County residents may apply for concealed weapon permits weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-noon and or from 1--5 p.m. at the Sheriff's Office in Benton.
Permits to purchase or acquire a handgun are also available at the Sheriff's Office.
Mississippi County Sheriff's Department officials advised they plan to announce a starting date to apply for concealed firearm permits once they hear from the Missouri Sheriff's Association.
Staff at the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department said they don't know what their sheriff has decided yet.