One million Floridians will be licensed to carry around concealed firearms in public, as the Sunshine State further secures its first-place status in the nation for the number of residents exercising the privilege.
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, saying the milestone exemplified the states devotion to the Second Amendment and other constitutional liberties.
[These figures] tell us that Floridians have a great respect and appreciation for their Second Amendment rights, and that firearm ownership, whether for personal protection or for sport, is popular, Putnam told reporters.
While Florida requires no permit to purchase and own a gun, it is generally illegal for citizens to carry arms openly in public. Cities and counties regulated the issuance of licenses for concealed carry of personal firearms before 1987, when the Florida Legislature relegated that authority to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
According to a press release issued after the conference, Floridas Concealed Weapons and Firearms Program is made up of 997,066 active license holders. At the current rate of processing applications, the 1-millionth active license will be issued early next week.
Putnam explained that over the last 25 years his department has issued 2,342,640 applications, and approved 2,307,881 of them. He said that a 99 percent approval rate was to be expected.
The [application] process in and of itself attracts people who have very little to worry about, and therefore are going to have a higher likelihood of acceptance, he said, explaining that applicants need to jump through a number of hoops before receiving their licenses: be at least 21 years of age, undergo a background check, pay over $100 in fees, take a class, and get fingerprinted.
If you know we're going to take your fingerprints, then if you have a long criminal history youre probably not going to want to volunteer your address and fingerprints to the state, he said.
Concealed weapons permits are automatically suspended when a holder is charged with a felony, and automatically revoked when he is convicted. Putnam told reporters that his department receives daily, weekly, and monthly updates from various law enforcement agencies on the eligibility of permit holders.
Next week will be the first time that 1 million people, about 90 percent of them Florida residents, will be in possession of active licenses. Florida has 19 million residents, 14 million of whom are over the age of 21. That means as of next week, about one in every 14, or 7 percent, of Florida adults will own a concealed carry license.
Because Florida shares reciprocity agreements with 35 other states, it is likely the total number of lawfully licensed concealed carriers living in the state is well more than 1 million.
While Floridas privacy laws prohibit the state from maintaining a public registry of licensed carriers, Putnam did disclose statistics that profiled the average licensee.
Four out of every five licensees are male, but with a growing interest among females. Nearly one-third of licensees are between ages 51 and 65.
While more than 2.3 million licenses have been issued, only 7,244 licenses (0.3 percent) have been revoked due to crime, illegal prints, or legislative or clemency changes.
As the statistics bear out, the responsible use of these licenses is overwhelmingly the rule, Putnam said. Clearly, Floridians who are obtaining these licenses are obtaining them for the right reasons and overwhelmingly using them in an appropriate way.
Putnam also pointed to the exponential increase in applications for concealed weapon or firearm licenses over the last decade. Fiscal year 2009-2010 was a record year, with 167,240 applications received. Just 10 years prior, 28,618 applications were received during fiscal year 1999-2000.
Putnam initially declined to speculate as to what might have motivated the recent spike in applications, but then suggested it might be due to Floridians becoming more comfortable with the [application] process.
Putnam said that when he assumed office in 2011, his departments Concealed Weapon and Firearm License Program had a backlog so severe that applicants were waiting between 12 and 15 weeks before having their permits issued. The waiting time has since been reduced to between 35 to 40 days, an accomplishment Putnam attributed to additional staffing made possible by the Legislature.
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (954) 235-9116.