The number of licensed concealed weapons holders in Florida is expected to top 1 million next week, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told reporters Wednesday.
Doubling since 2007, the number of concealed weapons license holders will top 5 percent of Florida’s 19.1 million residents in a state that is number one nationally in licenses issued.
“Clearly it is a popular law and has been taken advantage of by a large number of Floridians who have acted responsibly,” Putnam said.
Florida has been licensing concealed weapons since 1987, when state officials took over authority from counties that had a patchwork of requirements regarding who could carry and what was needed to qualify for a license. Since then, more than 2 million licenses have been issued.
License holders are predominantly male and most are over 31 years old, with more than 219,000 at least 65 years old. While still a relative minority, representing about 20 percent of all license holders, more than 200,000 women also have licenses to carry.
Putnam said that of the 2 million issued, only 0.3 percent have been revoked.
“Floridians who are obtaining these licenses are obtaining them for the right reason and are using them in an appropriate way,” Putnam told reporters.
Gun advocates have long argued the legal gun ownership is a deterrent to crime, a message that was repeated Wednesday by Marion Hammer, executive director of United Sportsmen of Florida and former president for the National Rifle Association.
“Criminals commit crimes, but they aren’t stupid,” Hammer said. “They don’t want to get shot.”
Overall gun sales are also up. On Tuesday, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, said the agency processed more criminal background checks for firearms on the Black Friday shopping day than any single day in the agency’s history.
Background checks are required for all gun purchases. Persons seeking concealed weapons licenses must undergo further screening and submit fingerprints.
A concealed weapons permit now takes a little over a month to obtain, down from more than 15 weeks only a few years ago. About 10 percent of licenses issued in Florida are for out-of-state residents.
–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida