Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Public safety

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 [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

TAMPA — The 1-month-old infant reported missing Monday was found hours later about 300 miles north in Quincy, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Sage Cooper was reported to be unharmed, officials said, and Gadsden Cou...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

TAMPA — A 68-year-old man was arrested Monday on a first-degree murder charge, according to Tampa police.Officers took James Leon Jackson into custody at 2712 W Nassau St. in west Tampa at about 1 p.m. A warrant for his arrest had been issued Friday....
Updated: 7 hours ago
In search for stolen car, the baby inside was the calmest one

In search for stolen car, the baby inside was the calmest one

ST. PETERSBURG — Photojournalist Michael Egger pulled into the apartment complex off 71st Avenue N on Monday afternoon, waiting for reporter Mark Douglas. The two WFLA-Ch. 8 journalists were looking for someone — they wouldn’t say who — when they fou...
Updated: 9 hours ago
‘Tase me, and you’ll see what happens,’ an American Airlines flier said. Police did - 10 times.

‘Tase me, and you’ll see what happens,’ an American Airlines flier said. Police did - 10 times.

Washington PostWhat began as a simple boarding dispute at Miami International Airport escalated into a tour de force of plane drama on Sunday as a belligerent passenger was repeatedly stunned by police, forcibly carried out of his seat, then driven t...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Deputies: Port Richey man admits molesting, attempting to rape 8-year-old girl

Deputies: Port Richey man admits molesting, attempting to rape 8-year-old girl

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 26-year-old man was arrested Friday on charges that he molested and attempted to rape an 8-year-old girl, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Kaleb Harrah, 26, of Port Richey, faces charges of attempted sexual battery o...
Updated: 11 hours ago
FHP: Man struck, killed by SUV while walking in center of road

FHP: Man struck, killed by SUV while walking in center of road

TRINITY — A 49-year-old man was struck and killed early Monday morning by a sport-utility vehicle as he walked in the center of westbound Trinity Boulevard, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Phillip Meadows, of New Port Richey, was wearing dark...
Published: 04/23/18
Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

Did you see who hit panhandler near Selmon and drove away?

TAMPA — A man with a history of arrests for roadside soliciting has been found dead at the side of a road. Jess Paez, 51, was identified by Tampa police Monday as the victim of an apparent hit-and-run crash over the weekend. His body was found about ...
Published: 04/23/18
Police arrest suspect in Waffle House shooting

Police arrest suspect in Waffle House shooting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The suspect in a quadruple homicide at a Nashville Waffle House was taken into custody Monday, police said. Authorities had mounted a massive manhunt for 29-year-old Travis Reinking, after the Sunday morning attacks. Authorities an...
Published: 04/23/18
Waffle House customer on why he rushed shooter: ‘He was going to have to work to kill me’

Waffle House customer on why he rushed shooter: ‘He was going to have to work to kill me’

Moments before the first shot, James Shaw Jr. was watching a Waffle House employee wash dishes, stacking them higher and higher. When the first shot was fired, Shaw thought the tower of plates had come crashing down, he would later recount at a news ...
Published: 04/23/18
Teen killed in Hernando crash was ‘always smiling and laughing’

Teen killed in Hernando crash was ‘always smiling and laughing’

WEEKI WACHEE — Seth Leathers was on his way to play basketball at his church when he was killed Wednesday in a car crash on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, according to family friend Laurie Pike.Leathers, 16, was the passenger in a car driven by his friend G...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18