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Fact-checking claim on Nikki Fried’s suspension of Jan. 6 defendants’ gun permits

Fried suspended gun permits for about two dozen people charged with crimes in connection to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
A crowd tries to force its way into the U.S. Capitol Building as part of a pro-Trump riot.
A crowd tries to force its way into the U.S. Capitol Building as part of a pro-Trump riot.
Published Aug. 5

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried suspended gun permits for nearly two dozen people charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“The deeply disturbing events that occurred at our nation’s Capitol on January 6 were sedition, treason, and domestic terrorism — and those individuals involved in the insurrection must be held accountable for attempting to subvert our democratic process,” Fried said in a July 27 statement.

Fried runs the state department that oversees gun permits, including concealed carry licenses. Fried, Florida’s only statewide Democrat officeholder, is running in the 2022 Democratic primary for governor.

A conservative Florida attorney criticized the gun permit suspensions on Facebook.

“She suspended ‘gun rights’ — no due process — just because she says these people were merely ‘involved’ in January 6,” wrote KrisAnne Hall, a Florida attorney who hosts a podcast and gives lectures on the Constitution. “Did they have a trial? Were they convicted of a crime?”

Fried did use the word “involved” in a press release describing the permit holders actions on Jan. 6. But it’s wrong to suggest that Fried suspended their permits just because they were “involved.” State law calls for suspending gun permits when people are charged with serious offenses.

The post is also wrong to claim that due process rights have been ignored. These Floridians will have an opportunity to request a hearing about the suspension.

The Facebook post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Florida law requires suspensions for permit holders charged with certain crimes

Florida is a “shall issue” state, which makes it easier to get a gun permit than in some other states. There are 2.3 million concealed weapon permit holders.

Criminal activity can cost someone their license, at least temporarily.

State law requires the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to suspend a concealed carry gun permit when a person is arrested or charged with a crime that would disqualify a person from having a license. This includes any felony offense as well as certain misdemeanors, such as multiple DUIs or drug crimes.

For the most recent year ending in June 2021, the state revoked 1,050 licenses and suspended about 7,300.

Under Florida law, a concealed weapon or firearm license is a private record — which means we don’t know which Jan. 6 defendants had their permits suspended, and so we also don’t know their specific charges.

A spokesperson for the department would not reveal which charges were at play, saying it received the information about the defendants from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Suspensions are a temporary action — an interim step to a potential revocation. And state law spells out the mandate for suspensions. It says when the department is notified by a law enforcement agency or a court, it shall suspend a license of a person arrested or charged with a crime that would disqualify the person from having a license until final disposition of the case. Also, the department shall suspend a license of a person who is issued an injunction that restrains the person from committing acts of domestic violence or repeat violence.

The Justice Department has charged more than 550 people in connection with the Capitol siege, according to a database run by the George Washington University Center on Extremism. Charges include obstruction of law enforcement, violence with a deadly weapon, assault, and unlawful possession of a firearm on Capitol grounds.

The largest number of defendants — 63 — came from Florida, according to the university’s database. Some of the Floridians include:

  • Kevin Tuck, a Windermere police officer who has since resigned. He was indicted on multiple offenses including obstruction of an official proceeding and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building.
  • Adam Johnson, who was photographed carrying Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern during the riot. He was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
  • Joseph Biggs, a member of the neofascist group the Proud Boys. He was charged with multiple counts including destruction of government property and violent and disorderly conduct.
  • Paul Hodgkins of Tampa, who was seen in the Senate chamber taking selfies, and was the first defendant to be sentenced for a felony charge.

Relating to due process, Florida law says that the agriculture department must send a notice of suspension to the permit holder, who then has a few weeks to request a hearing.

So far, one suspended permit holder has requested a hearing, said Erin Moffet, a spokesperson for Fried.

If permit holders want to present evidence that they were not charged with a disqualifying offense, they could do so. The number of suspended licenses could go up or down depending on the outcome of cases. As of Aug. 2, the number of suspended permits was 23.

In an email interview about her Facebook post, Hall cited part of the law that points to felonies or drug crimes as disqualifying offenses for gun permits.

“The majority of these people have not been charged with crimes that would disqualify them from having a license, therefore they are not eligible for suspension or revocation without actual conviction of a greater crime,” Hall said in an email. “Therefore, neither the law nor due process have been served.”

We asked Hall how she knows that the majority of these people have not been charged with disqualifying offenses since the names of the permit holders are private and did not get a reply to that question. She is wrong to suggest there is no due process since the permit holders have a right to a hearing.

Daniel W. Webster, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, said there isn’t a lot of data to examine offending rates of concealed carry permit holders compared with the public at large.

“But I think it is still safe to say that, as a group, permit holders are very law-abiding,” Webster said. “What people fail to appreciate is that this is simply a reflection of group average. Within that large group, there are clearly subgroups of individuals with much higher risks for violent offending. Participating in a violent insurrection may well be a marker for risks for committing acts of violence.”

Our ruling

A Facebook post said that Fried “suspended gun rights — no due process — just because she says these people were merely ‘involved’ in January 6.”

The post wrongly suggests that Fried suspended gun permits based on the participants’ mere involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The post ignores what Florida law actually says: Fried’s department is required to suspend gun permits for disqualifying offenses, which includes violent crimes.

Since the names of permit holders are a private record in Florida, we can’t independently evaluate their charges to confirm that they are disqualifying offenses under state law. However, under state law, they have a right to request a hearing to challenge their suspensions.

We rate this statement Mostly False.

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this fact-check.