To get ahead of a backlog of gun permit applications the Department of Public Safety is hiring temporary workers to process the paperwork. It's a fix that critics say wouldn't be necessary if DPS had properly prepared for the spike in applications.
A record number of people are signing up for gun training that requires work on the range and in a classroom.
Michael Cargill says some of those who have completed the course he offers are having a hard time getting their permit applications process by the state. By law it should take no longer than 60 days.
"People are sending in their information electronically and they're not being able to keep up with that," said Cargill.
During the regular session state lawmakers approved legislation reducing the amount of classroom time required for a permit from a minimum of 10 hours to at least four hours. The change is expected to accelerate a trend that's already on the rise. The number of permits issued by the state has gone from about 140,000 for the 2010-11 fiscal year to almost 230,000 in this past cycle. There are currently a little more than 700,000 active concealed Hand Gun Licenses in Texas.
Cargill believes state leaders have failed to manage the growth and failed to realize even more applications would be filed after the new standards took effect in September.
"This should have been anticipated, September the first they should have already had new employees in place," said Cargill.
The legislation that was signed by the governor appears to give officials at DPS the authority to increase permitting fees to cover their costs, but the $140 fee has not changed.
Officials at DPS admit there is a backlog. Staff members, taking time off during the November and December holiday season, may have contributed the problem. To catch up agency spokesperson Tom Vinger said overtime has been approved for staff members and temporary workers have been hired. A Formal Statement outlining what's being done was released late Friday by DPS:
"The Texas Department of Public Safety has seen a recent increase in Concealed Handgun License (CHL) applications, and has already taken steps to process applications as quickly as possible. An overtime project involving current employees and adding temporary workers has been initiated to assist with the increased demand. (DPS does not track reasons for increases in applications.)
While DPS is largely meeting the statutory requirement to issue new CHLs within 60 days of receiving a fully completed application packet (and 45 days for renewals), we expect the overtime project will also address this issue (i.e., any applications falling outside of these limits) by speeding up processing times. We appreciate the public's patience during this high-demand period and remain committed to processing all applications as quickly as possible.
A completed packet for a new CHL includes a properly completed application, digital fingerprints, proof of completion of CHL course training and other supporting documentation. (A completed packet for a CHL renewal includes a properly completed application; no additional documentation is required unless applying for an active-duty military, law enforcement or veteran designation.) Incomplete packet information or additional required information can affect the time it takes to process an application. "
Increasing the permit fee may not be part of the immediate fix. Agency officials said they are not sure if an increase can be done without a lengthy review process taking place.