CLEARWATER — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor, announced on Thursday a $5 fee cut for concealed weapons licenses and renewals.
"It is a commitment of mine that we continue to protect, strengthen and expand our Second Amendment rights," Putnam said Thursday while visiting the Pinellas County Tax Collector's office, asserting at least four times that the fee reduction supported Second Amendment rights.
It's the third time in five years that concealed weapon license fees are being reduced under Putnam, who oversees the licensing as the head of Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. At Putnam's urging, the Legislature passed the fee cut this spring. The license fee goes from $60 to $55 for a first-time licensee and from $50 to $45 for a renewal. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia.
Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law June 9. Florida has nearly 1.8 million concealed weapons license holders.
Thursday's event was carefully planned by Putnam's office.
Shortly before his office issued a media alert Wednesday, it alerted tax collectors in an email that said: "We ask that you refrain from sending your releases until after we send our release, as the news should first come from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. We'll forward you all our release once it has gone out."
Tax collectors had nothing to do with the fee reduction, but they are elected officials. While Putnam oversees the program, Floridians can get a license with their local tax collector, who also accepts property tax payments and issues driver's licenses, vehicle registrations and car and truck titles.
Putnam said Thursday that tax collectors offices across the state accounted for 25 percent of the department's business for licenses. The partnership, he said, is proof that they are running government more like a business.
Putnam said the previous wait time to receive a license was "unacceptable," so he made it a goal to make the process smoother by working with tax collector offices, like Pinellas County's.
"I bought Pinellas County a computer and a printer and they took care of the rest," he said in an interview afterward.
He said statewide statistics showing an increase in concealed weapons licenses and a decrease in crime in Florida reported by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was all the proof he needed that regulated gun holders are not the ones committing the crimes.
"It's a fair comparison," Putnam said.