One in Every 17 Floridians Can Carry a Concealed Gun

Ever casually glance around the supermarket and wonder just how many folks loading milk into their cart are also secretly packing heat? The answer, based on new data from the state, is one in every 17 of them. Or at least that's how many Floridians now have valid concealed carry permits as the state chugged past the 900,000 mark last month. Dade alone now has more than 80,000 permits.

The rise comes after state legislators made it cheaper to buy and renew permits -- and continues even as the Trayvon Martin case raises questions about whether a concealed gun bonanza plus Stand Your Ground equals a bit too much incentive for vigilantes among us.

The trend, taken in a vacuum, seems a bit odd. Violent crime is on a downward trend across the country, including in the Sunshine State, and though there's a Democrat in the White House, Obama has barely spoken about gun control except to famously promise he wouldn't "take away folks guns."

Yet the NRA and other groups have warned that a second Obama administration could bring tighter controls and in Florida, they're listening.

"People are beginning to realize that their liberties are potentially in jeopardy," Robert Stokes, president of the Florida affiliate of the NRA, tells the Naples Daily News.

The Daily News found that FBI background checks for gun purchases have risen 14 percent in 2012. As of March, there are 919,831 concealed carry permits statewide -- equal to 6.5 percent of adults in the state.

In Dade, there are are 82,438 concealed permits on the books as of the end of March, a state spokeswoman tells Riptide.

Florida's gun laws have been under a national spotlight since Martin's killing by George Zimmerman, the self-appointed watchman with a concealed weapons permit who's been shielded by Stand Your Ground.

"This man George Zimmerman, is a living example (problems with concealed carry)," Dan Gross, president of the pro-gun control Brady Project, told the Capitol News Service. "This is a guy who had an arrest record, this is a guy who had a violent past. This is a guy who in numerous other states would never be offered a permit to carry a loaded, hidden, handgun."

Gov. Rick Scott, though, has pushed NRA-backed bills, including one to forbid doctors from asking patients about gun ownership and another that would punish local officials for passing gun control rules.

State legislators also dropped the price for a concealed permit by $15 to $70.

The most heat-packing county in Florida? As of March, it's rural Dixie County, where close to 10 percent of adults have permits; our neighbors to the south in Monroe County aren't far behind, coming in second with 7.3 percent licensed to carry.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink