Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gun permits in Florida: A growth industry

George Zimmerman is part of a large and growing class in Florida: He holds a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Or he did until last week, when he was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

A gun permit in Florida is suspended when the holder is charged with a felony. If Zimmerman is acquitted, he'll get his gun permit back.

Through March, 919,831 people held permits to carry a concealed weapon in Florida, or roughly one of every 15 adults in the state. (More than 106,000 permit holders live in other states.)

Four out of five are men. Most are over age 50.

Miami-Dade, the state's biggest county, has the most permit holders, more than 82,000. Broward is second with 72,000.

Hillsborough has the fourth-highest with nearly 46,000; Pinellas ranks No. 7 with more than 36,000.

Requests for permits have escalated in recent years. At the current pace, the number of permit holders will surpass 1 million in the next few months.

The Legislature puts Florida's gun licensing program under the control of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the agency that ensures the safety of fruits and vegetables.

The agency reports that February and March were the two busiest months on record for gun permits, with 53,835 in February and 52,712 in March (those totals include new permits and renewals).

The February number was more than 10,000 higher than the same month in 2011, and nearly twice as high as 2010.

"I don't know the answer to why the last two months have seen the highest numbers," Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says. "There's any number of things."

Putnam cites familiar theories such as economic uncertainty, fears of stricter gun control or worries of rising crime, though the violent crime rate in Florida has been declining for several years.

A permit is valid for seven years, and lawmakers just lowered the price by $5. It's $70 for a new license, $60 for renewal.

Putnam's agency now has eight sites for people to renew permits. The latest opened in Fort Walton Beach last month, and offers same-day renewal.

State records show that since July, 1,964 permits have been suspended, a tiny fraction of the universe of 919,831. Another 725 were suspended following domestic violence injunctions, and 513 permits were revoked.

Antigun groups like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence blame easy access to handguns for the Martin tragedy.

"Don't get me wrong, I blame George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin," the Brady Center's Dan Gross writes. "But I also blame the NRA and the politicians who do their bidding for putting the gun in his hands."

Supporters of gun rights view it very differently.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, the Ocala Republican famous as the House sponsor of the 2005 "stand your ground" law, vigorously supports concealed weapons and says the overwhelming majority of permit holders are careful, law-abiding citizens.

In a free society, people should have the right to arm themselves, Baxley says.

"These permit holders don't shoot people," Baxley says.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Gun permits in Florida: A growth industry 04/16/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 10:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  3. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  4. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE

    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.