More of your neighbors are packing heat. Whether it's fear of crime, fallout from a bad economy or concerns about the new administration, the number of people applying for a concealed weapons permit has jumped. For the year ending June 30, 2008, about 84,000 people applied for new permits in Florida. In 2005, that number was about 42,000 people. Here's a look at what obtaining a concealed weapons permit entails and who is getting them:
In Florida, you don't need a permit to buy a handgun, but, with a few exceptions, you need a permit to carry one.
Florida law defines a concealed firearm as a gun "carried on or about a person in such a manner as to conceal it from the ordinary sight of another person." A person carrying a concealed firearm sans license can face up to five years in prison.
Having a permit doesn't mean you can carry everywhere.
Prohibited places include schools, airports, polling places, jails and police stations. They also are prohibited at meetings of the Legislature.
Having a permit doesn't make you an officer of the law.
Threats aren't enough to justify shooting someone. Broadly speaking, Florida law allows the use of deadly force when you are trying to protect yourself or another person from serious bodily harm. Of course, the exceptions and caveats fill law books. Using or displaying a handgun in any other circumstances could get you convicted.
Who can get a permit?
You must be 21, demonstrate competence with a firearm by completing safety courses, and be a current U.S. resident or permanent resident alien. There are some exceptions.
Someone convicted of a felony or recent misdemeanor; or someone with certain physical disabilities, a history of drug or alcohol abuse, or who has been judged incompetent or mentally deficient, among other things.
Want to arm yourself?
Get an application online at www.doacs.state.fl.us (click on Licensing Permits Reg.) or call (850) 245-5691, but expect to wait. The application packet includes the forms to fill out, a fingerprint card, information pack and a return envelop. You will need: $117; a passport-style, color photograph; and verification of firearms training that satisfies the requirement. This fee is not refundable. A permit is valid for seven years.