With the election of a new Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, the Sunshine State’s gun licensing program could change management.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under law controls the state’s concealed weapon license program. With some 2 million such licenses in circulation, the newly elected Ag commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried, said she wants to move the program to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which she argues will take politics out of the process, a move some state lawmakers reportedly support.
State gun rights advocates would prefer the program switch to the control of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Republican and the self-styled “business manager for the state,” in charge of auditing state agencies. Marion Hammer, former NRA president and the state’s primary pro-gun lobbyist, said a move to FDLE would be a mistake.
“Previously it had been handled by 67 different counties, and the abuse at the hands of county sheriffs was rampant,” said Hammer. “The Second Amendment is a guaranteed right under the Constitution,” she explained, citing the permitting process needs to be under the control of an “elected official, answerable to all the people.”
Republicans, who hold a majority in both chambers of the state legislature, are expected to introduce legislation to move the program to the CFO.
In the meantime, Fried, who was supported on her run by gun control advocates, has promised that “On my first day in office, this administration will initiate a wholesale audit of the CWP department,” in light of reports that some background checks for licensing were not handled correctly.