Editor’s note: At the end of December 2012, Florida passed the 1 million mark in issuing permits for concealed weapons, becoming the first state in the nation hit that milestone. The number rose dramatically at the end of 2012 in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. (This story went to press before that event.)
A fusillade of news kept Florida gun owners in the headlines in 2012:
» The February fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford sparked protests and renewed scrutiny of the state’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law, which grants immunity to anyone who uses deadly force in self-defense.
» Marion Hammer, the chief Florida lobbyist for the National Rifle Association who has notched a long string of legislative victories, announced plans to pursue legislation this year that would make it legal for holders of concealed-weapons permits to openly carry guns in public.
» In July, a U.S. District Court judge in Miami blocked a 2011 Florida law championed by Hammer and other gun proponents that prohibits doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients, arguing that the “docs versus Glocks” law violates the First Amendment rights of doctors. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has directed his administration to pursue an appeal.
The spike in permit applications, which began after President Obama’s first election, “turned out to be a prolonged period of peak demand,” says Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose agency administers the gun permit program.
The deluge prompted Putnam to implement a quick track process for renewing concealed weapons permits. The state, which passed the nation’s first “shall-issue” concealed carry weapons law 26 years ago, has a “strong tradition of upholding Second Amendment rights,” Putnam notes.
As a “shall issue” state, authorities in Florida are required to issue permits to any qualified applicant.