Sunday, February 25, 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
Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

LARGO — A 60-year-old man who police said was the driver in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run on East Bay Drive from three days prior was arrested by Largo Police on Saturday, the department said.Victor Bonavita was arrested on three charges in relation...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

TAMPA — Officials reopened roads near Citrus Park Mall Saturday evening that had been closed in the afternoon for a natural gas leak caused by a car crash, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

TAMPA — A male motorcyclist died early Saturday morning on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Tampa Police Department said.About 1:35 a.m., the victim rode his motorcycle west on the Courtney Campbell at high speeds, police said. The motorcycle stru...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Broward sheriff’s office launches internal investigations amid questions after Parkland massacre

Broward sheriff’s office launches internal investigations amid questions after Parkland massacre

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating allegations that multiple deputies failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the shooting rampage there, adding to the mounting internal probes examin...
Published: 02/24/18
Police: Registered sex offender who attacked Marriott hotel worker arrested

Police: Registered sex offender who attacked Marriott hotel worker arrested

TAMPA — A registered sex offender was arrested early Saturday morning by Tampa Police in connection with a hotel worker who was attacked earlier this week, the department said.John Eckhard, 41, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. on charges of aggravated ba...
Published: 02/24/18
Parents accused of torturing their 13 children face new charges

Parents accused of torturing their 13 children face new charges

The 13 Turpin siblings gained their freedom last month after one of them escaped through a window and called 911, ending years of imprisonment under parents accused of starving and chaining them to their beds in a putrid home not far from Los Angeles...
Published: 02/24/18
Concerned about gun posts, dad turns in son’s phones. Cops find something else.

Concerned about gun posts, dad turns in son’s phones. Cops find something else.

After the Parkland school shooting that horrified the nation, a Miami father told police he was worried about his son’s disturbing posts with guns on Instagram and Snapchat.So he gave investigators his son’s smartphones — and they found child porn, c...
Published: 02/24/18
Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

WASHINGTON — Once again, it was the images of children that propelled President Donald Trump to act. Trump spent the first days after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida fixated on the grieving and anguished students and parents. While at his Flor...
Published: 02/24/18
Gun legislation unease looms over Tampa gun show attendees, vendors

Gun legislation unease looms over Tampa gun show attendees, vendors

TAMPA — Hundreds lined up minutes after one of the state’s biggest gun shows opened its doors Saturday morning at the Florida State Fairgrounds.About 400 people from the entrance stood Austin Nichols, a 19-year-old looking to get a deal on bullets. H...
Published: 02/23/18
Updated: 02/24/18
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter. If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can cr...
Published: 02/23/18