SEBRING Statewide concealed weapons permits are nearing the one million mark, according to a report from the Florida Department of Agriculture Consumer Services Division of Licensing, which monitors them.
So far, Florida recorded 952,415 active concealed weapons permits. As of June 30, Highlands County residents held 5,160 of those permits.
For $36.50, residents can go to the Highlands County Sheriff's Office and be fingerprinted as part of the process, said Chief Deputy Mark Schrader on Friday.
"People are coming in every day getting fingerprinted for concealed weapons permits," he said, adding some come in for employment requirements, as well. "We have people from all walks of life, ages and gender coming in."
The majority of fingerprints are now taken electronically, Schrader said. The prints for concealed weapons licenses are sent to the state Department of Agriculture and the computer also prints out a hard copy for the individual.
In addition the concealed weapons license costs $42 for processing the fingerprints and $70 for the initial license, for a total of $112. For a license renewal, the price is $60 and $15 for a duplicate license.
The renewal for out-of-state Florida residents is $102, which includes fingerprint processing.
From July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, Highlands County residents applied for 759 new concealed permit licenses and 359 renewals.
Of those, 747 new licenses were issued, along with 358 renewals. Three licenses were revoked and 18 were suspended due to disqualifying arrests. Five licenses were denied due to incomplete documentation, and five were ineligible.
Miami-Dade County had the most concealed licenses with 84,940; Broward County followed second at 74,439.
Hillsborough County had 47,188 and Polk had 22,949. On the low side, was Lafayette County with 220, followed by Liberty County with 234. Glades had 352 of the permits.
The shooting spree in Colorado has prompted calls for more gun control and that raised the question if it was too easy to get a gun permit in Florida, a News Service of Florida story asked.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who operates the gun permit program, said his office is issuing between 10,000 and 15,000 permits every month, the story stated.
"At the rate at which we are processing permits, we will in the next six weeks to two months likely reach the one million mark of valid permits in activity," he said in a recorded statement.
He did not think it's too easy to get a gun permit in Florida.
"Florida has a strong tradition in upholding Second Amendment rights," Putnam said. "The Florida Legislature has been very clear about that. The track record of administering the program in our office and when it was in the Department of State has been one that is thorough and efficient."
Putnam said Florida has seen increasing demand for gun permits in recent years.
"What was thought of to be a spike has really turned out to be a prolonged period of peak demand," he said.
It allows gun owners to renew their weapons permits faster, he said.
The eight regional Fast Track offices across Florida were proving "wildly popular" with gun owners, Putnam said.
Florida's concealed weapons permit holders are overwhelmingly law-abiding citizens, Putnam said. The identities of concealed weapons holders are protected, Putnam said.
However the state receives information when a concealed weapons permit holder is charged with and convicted of a felony.
About 6,955 gun permits were revoked out of 2.22 million issued since Oct. 1, 1987. Records showed 168 permits were revoked for gun-related crimes. Also 6,234 were revoked for other crimes after licensure.
Records showed 122 were revoked for other issues and 754 were reinstated since 1990, when reinstatement records began being recorded.
Of the 2,260,949 permit applications received, 2,227,360 licenses were issued. Records show that 15,500 were denied – 5,190 because of criminal history and 10,310 because the applications were incomplete.
Between 2011 and 2012 the department received 151,883 new application requests and 66,974 renewal applications.
Of those the department issued 148,548 new licenses and renewed 66,511 concealed weapons licenses.