Record Year for Gun Permits
Florida is on track to almost double last year’s record-setting number of concealed weapons applications filed with state officials, as a grim economy continues to combine with concerns about a congressional clampdown to drive requests.
The U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a measure Wednesday that could have allowed gun owners with permits in one state to also carry concealed weapons in other states, with Florida Republican Mel Martinez voting in favor of the legislation and Democrat Bill Nelson opposed.
Although the provision could have opened the door to more weapons-holders, an unprecedented 585,544 concealed weapons permits have already been issued in Florida.
And with 118,000 applications flooding state Agriculture Commissioner’s Charles Bronson’s office so far this year, weapons requests are expected to top 150,000 – easily surpassing 2008’s 89,000 applications.
“There are concerns on the part of some that a Democratic Congress could enact more limits on gun ownership, and then there’s the economy,” said Terry McElroy, a Bronson spokesman. “Put that together, and everyone who wants a gun is buying a gun.”
A backlog of 55,000 applications still exists within Bronson’s department – despite the state spending $3.9 million this spring to hire 61 temporary workers to sift through the paperwork.
Florida already allows residents of 32 other states to have concealed weapons here, if they have permits in their home state. But the gun amendment before the Senate would have expanded that to all states. It fell two votes short of the required 60 votes for passage, although gun supporters promise to revive the effort soon.
Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, said the state’s push for permits is rooted in the 2008 “guns-at-work” legislation. The measure, opposed by gun organizations and backed by business groups, allows only concealed weapons permit-holders to now keep weapons in their vehicles at work.
The election of Democrat Barack Obama, and a Congress led by Democrats, have fueled fears among gun-owners that tougher sanctions against weapons could be coming, although none have yet developed.
“The applications started coming in after the Florida legislation,” Hammer said. “But when Obama became president, then even more started. And sure, when the economy is bad, crime goes up.”
Gov. Charlie Crist, a candidate for U.S. Senate, may have added to the partisan nature of the gun debate Tuesday, when he said he opposed Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court because of concerns about her support for second amendment gun rights.
Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, accused the NRA and others of fanning fears about Obama and Congress to fuel weapons purchases and permit-holding. In recent months, Congress has voted to repeal gun control measures in Washington, D.C., and also to extend concealed weapons-permitting to national parks.
Wednesday’s Senate vote was the first setback for the gun lobby since Obama’s election, Everitt said.
“This is all propaganda by the NRA with no basis in reality,” Everitt said. “But it’s good for driving membership and gun sales.”
Hammer disagrees, saying Wednesday’s Senate defeat “doesn’t make sense.”
“You don’t change who you are when you cross an invisible state line,” Hammer said. “Why shouldn’t you be able to have a concealed weapon in another state?”