Felons exploit loopholes in Fla. concealed weapons law
Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 11:57 p.m.
FORT LAUDERDALE - A pizza driver wanted for fatally shooting a teenaged customer over stolen chicken wings and a man convicted of choking and slapping his 4-year-old nephew for playing with a light switch are among those licensed by the state of Florida to carry concealed guns, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Who can carry concealed guns
Among the roughly 410,000 Floridians licensed to carry a hidden gun:
A South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis of state records found loopholes, errors and miscommunication gave hundreds of criminals access to concealed weapons permits.
Among the roughly 410,000 Floridians licensed to carry a hidden gun: 1,400 people who pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 people with outstanding warrants, 128 people with active domestic violence injunctions and six registered sex offenders, the newspaper reported.
''I had no idea,'' said Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson, who sits on an advisory panel for the state Division of Licensing, which issues concealed weapon permits. ''I think the system, somewhere down the line, is broken. I guarantee you the ordinary person doesn't know (that) . . . and I'd venture to guess that 160 legislators in Florida don't know that, either.''
The newspaper obtained names of those on the state's concealed weapon's permit list shortly before state lawmakers sealed it from public scrutiny on July 1.
Marion Hammer, a Tallahassee lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, blamed law enforcement gaps, ''bleeding-heart, criminal-coddling judges and prosecutors'' for missteps that put guns in the hands of criminals. Critics say the NRA pressures lawmakers to ignore the problem.
''The people who are intimately familiar with these laws, the people at the NRA, they know exactly what's going on,'' said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the nonprofit Violence Policy Center. Florida's gun lobby and the program's administrators ''know they're permitting some bad people, but they don't want the general public to know that.''
The analysis also found that the number of concealed weapons permits have soared since the state Legislature gave Floridians the opportunity to carry concealed guns in 1987.
Statewide the number of concealed weapons licenses increased from roughly 25,000 to more than 410,000. In rural Dixie County one of every 24 residents has a permit to carry a concealed gun, the Sun-Sentinel analysis found.
In Miami-Dade County, the number of licenses has jumped from 2,200 to 42,521 as of Dec. 31. In Broward County, the numbers soared from 25 to 35,884.
''That's an alarming increase,'' said Coral Springs Police Chief Duncan Foster. ''I don't view that as a positive trend. I view that as a negative. The more guns on the street, the more prone people are to violence.''
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