A civil rights group wants the state to suspend the concealed carry permit of George Zimmerman as investigators probe the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.
But Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose agency oversees concealed weapons permits, said he can't do anything without pending criminal charges or a felony conviction. In Florida, felons are not allowed to carry concealed weapons without restoration of their civil rights and firearm authority.
State law also prevents Putnam's agency from identifying people who have applied for or received a permit, so he can't specifically talk about Zimmerman as a permit holder.
"My office is legally bound to fiercely protect the privacy of concealed weapon permit holders," Putnam said Tuesday when asked about the group's demand. "There are specific legal triggers that result in suspension or revocation."
"The public believes that Mr. Zimmerman is not fit to maintain his license because he has demonstrated to be a clear threat to public safety," the group's president, J. Willie David III, said in a statement.
No one from the group has responded to emails and phone calls for comment.
Zimmerman told police in Sanford that he shot Martin, who died with a bullet wound to his chest, in self-defense, a key part of Florida's seven-year-old "Stand Your Ground" law. Zimmerman's call to 911 dispatcher, released last week, suggests he pursued Martin even though the dispatcher told him not to, spurring increased national outrage over the Feb. 26 incident. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
Putnam spokesman Sterling Ivey said it is not common for complaints to be filed against concealed carry weapons permit holders. Once a complaint is filed it is investigated by the licensing division and, if needed, the department's law enforcement arm.
Here's what state law says about suspending or revoking a permit holder's license:
- The department shall revoke a license if the licensee has been found guilty of, had adjudication of guilt withheld for, or had imposition of sentence suspended for one or more crimes of violence within the preceding three years.
- The department shall suspend a license if the licensee is arrested or formally charged with a felony. The suspension will last until the case is over.
- The department shall suspend a license if the licensee is issued an injunction that restrains him or her from committing acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violence.
- Other grounds for suspension/revocation include sustaining a physicial disability that makes handling a weapon safely impossible and being committed to a mental institution.