At some point next week, Florida will become the first state in the nation to have 1 million active concealed carry permit holders.
In light of this fact, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam held a press conference on Wednesday to share the great news and to tout the Sunshine State’s widespread admiration for our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
“[These figures] tell us that Floridians have a great respect and appreciation for their Second Amendment rights, and that firearm ownership, whether for personal protection or for sport, is popular,” Putnam told a room full of reporters.
Currently there are 997,066 active license holders and given the rate at which authorities process applications – more than several thousand per week – it’s expected that the 1 million mark will be reached in the very near future.
To put this in perspective, Florida has 14 million residents who are age-eligible (over 21) for a CCW permit. So, that means one out of every 14 Floridians or 7 percent have CCW permits.
Since Florida began issuing CCW permits in 1987 the state has processed 2,342,640 applications, approving 2,307,881 of them, said Putman (note that Florida also allows out-of-state citizens to obtain CCW permits which helps to explain why 2.3 million applications have been processed and there are only 1 million active CCW permit holders in the state).
The high rate of approval or the low rejection rate (only 0.015 percent of applications are denied), depending on how one chooses to look at it, suggests that the vast majority of permit holders are law-abiding citizens.
“The [application] process in and of itself attracts people who have very little to worry about, and therefore are going to have a higher likelihood of acceptance,” said Putman, who explained that to be approved for a permit one must be 21 years of age, pass a background check, pay roughly $100 in licensing fees, participate in a firearms training class and get fingerprinted.
“If you know we’re going to take your fingerprints, then if you have a long criminal history you’re probably not going to want to volunteer your address and fingerprints to the state,” he added.
While the majority of information with respect to active permit holders is kept secret, Putman released some statistics relating to demographics. For example, approximately half of permit holders (about 55 percent) are 51 years or older and four out of every five licensees are male, though numbers indicate that more and more women are becoming licensed.
Another important stat is the revocation percentage, i.e. how many licensees lose their permit due to crime-related activity. Putman said that of the 2.3 million licenses issued, only 7,244 licenses (0.3 percent) have been canceled.
“As the statistics bear out, the responsible use of these licenses is overwhelmingly the rule,” Putnam said. “Clearly, Floridians who are obtaining these licenses are obtaining them for the right reasons and overwhelmingly using them in an appropriate way.”
Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida-based lobbyist and longtime proponent of concealed carry, applauded the benchmark.
“It’s great news,” Hammer told the Tampa Bay Times. “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.”
Though, of course, those on the other side of the issue were less than thrilled with the news.
“Florida’s concealed weapons permitting allowed George Zimmerman to carry a concealed weapon in public, and he had a history of violence,” Brian Malte, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Tampa Bay Times. “If more guns made us a safer society, then we’d be the safest society on earth. We’re not. We’re the most lethal.”