Economy Blamed for increase in Concealed weapon permits in Florida
TALLAHASSEE — People in Florida are fearful of the economic future, and one way they are coping is by buying guns. The state office that issues concealed weapon permits is buried under a backlog of 95,000 applications and doesn't have enough money in its budget to do the job. A legislative budget panel is being asked to approve a midyear budget transfer of nearly $4-million to catch up to the demand for permits.
"People are getting scared," said Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson. "The economy is scaring them. They don't want their houses broken into." Bronson's Cabinet agency includes the Division of Licensing that processes weapons permit applications. Figures released by Bronson's office show that it issued 75,679 permits in 2007 and 86,269 in 2008.
Applications spiked dramatically upward in December and January. During one six-week period, applications were up 42 percent. Overall, from fiscal 2003-04 to 2007-08, the state saw a 91 percent increase in permit applications.
A permit is valid for seven years and costs $120, which includes a $44 charge for applicants to undergo state and federal criminal history checks by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and pay for a set of fingerprints. By law the state must act upon a permit application within 90 days of receipt or the applicant automatically qualifies for a permit.
Bronson, a certified police officer who worked as a reserve sheriff's deputy in Miami-Dade and Brevard counties, said a team of licensing employees is trying to process up to 1,000 applicants a day, but the applications keep coming. "We're a little bit under the gun here," he said.