If you watched several recent TV news broadcasts around the state, you might be under the mistaken impression that Florida’s tax collectors are soon going to be in charge of issuing concealed carry licenses.
While these reports created angst and outrage among gun owners who watched the broadcasts – fortunately they’re not true.
I don’t like to correct the reporting of my TV news colleagues, since it could easily become a
full time job, especially when they report about guns and Second Amendment issues. However, this latest error requires immediate clarification as it threatens to derail some great legislation.
State Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, recently introduced SB 544, which is designed to remedy the main problem with the state’s concealed carry program – the delay.
Simpson’s bill would authorize concealed carry applicants to drop off their application at a tax collector’s office. It empowers the tax collectors to take the applicant’s fingerprints, collect their money, take their photo and then ship the whole packet off – electronically – to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Division of Licensing.
As it stands now, applicants can apply for a concealed carry license by mail, or stop by one of the Division’s offices. Unfortunately, there are only eight regional offices, and it can take months to get an appointment. On the other hand, tax collectors are everywhere. Simpson’s bill would expedite the process by allowing the tax collectors to accept the applications too.
It’s important to mention what Simpson’s bill does not do. This is the part missing from the local TV reports.
The tax collectors will not issue any concealed carry licenses. They will merely perform a clerical function for the Division of Licensing – they’ll accept the paperwork.
The tax collectors will not approve the applications: They will not have any decision making power.
The tax collectors are not going to check to see if an applicant owes any back taxes before accepting the application.
Their role is limited to helping the applicant with their paperwork. They’ll make sure the application is complete before it’s sent off to the Division of Licensing, where the staff will then process the license request normally, as they have more than one million times before.
Simpson’s bill, as it stands now, has been referred to the Criminal Justice; Agriculture; Community Affairs Committee.
It deserves support, not suspicion.
Also, it’s strongly backed by NRA and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.