Sometime next week, somewhere in Florida, someone will become the state’s one millionth holder of a concealed weapons license.
That makes Florida No. 1 in the nation. Whether that’s a milestone worth celebrating or cringing at, Florida’s Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam deemed it worthy of a major news conference Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m asked about our licensing requirements more than any other topic,” Putnam said, responding to a question about why he was making such a fuss about next week’s projected milestone. The popularity of active concealed weapons permits has surged in Florida during the past 10 years, climbing from about 250,000 in 2000 to more than 1 million next week.
Putnam credited a love of the Second Amendment for the increase, but it probably has more to do with a number of laws and policies approved during that period that has improved access to licenses. While Putnam said the state’s low revocation rate of licenses was proof that the program worked and was responsible, he defended a 2006 law that keeps secret those who have permits – making it difficult to verify for the public just how safe the program is.
“The Legislature made the decision to protect gun owners and we should respect that,” said Putnam, who oversees the issuance of the permits. Putnam’s office did release some more general numbers. Did you know about 20 percent of permit holders are women? Or that nearly a quarter of those with concealed weapon licenses are above the age of 65?
One person happy to hear about the upcoming milestone was Marion Hammer, the powerful lobbyist who heads the National Rifle Association's state affiliate, the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, and did more than anyone else in easing the state’s gun laws.
“It’s great news,” Hammer said. “When the number of license holders increase, crime decreases. We have a record number of license holders now, and crime is the lowest it’s been in 40 years.”
But representatives from gun control groups said the 1 million mark was nothing to celebrate. “It should be a concern in Florida,” said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “The state has basically let Marion Hammer write its gun policy.”