Concealed Carry Surge Leads To Budget Deficit In Florida

AP Photo/Michael Hill

The state of Florida has processed so many applications for concealed carry licenses in the past year that the fund used to help pay for the background checks is now nearly out of money. Lawmakers in Tallahassee will consider a budget request from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Licensing this week to cover a deficit that’s expected to reach more than $4-million this year.

“The Division of Licensing is experiencing the largest volume of concealed weapon license applications in the program’s history,” information prepared for the commission meeting said. “The 203,000 background checks billed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the first six months of this year translates to an annual total of 400,000 background checks through June 30th, substantially above any prior fiscal year total.”

There are already more than 2-million concealed carry licenses in Florida, but clearly interest in acquiring a carry license has never been higher. The estimated 400,000 background checks conducted by the Department of Agriculture’s Consumer Services’ Division include renewals as well as conducting background checks on applicants, but they don’t include the number of background checks performed by the federal NICS system on retail sales of firearms.

As it turns out, those numbers are at an all-time high in Florida as well.

Green Acres Sporting Goods said ammo like .380 caliber and 9MM are in high demand.

A box of 50 would usually go for $20, but it’s now selling for close to $80.

Five million Americans bought a gun for the first time in the U.S. in 2020, setting a record, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“They weren’t buying one or two boxes, they were buying cases of ammo,” Zaideh Farhat a sales manager at Green Acres said, adding that keeping up with demand has been tough.

Farhat said between March and May of 2020, the store did a years’ worth of sales in just three months.

“The store has been there 50 years, we have never sold this much ammo ever,” Farhat said.

Gun background checks in the nation have shot up. According to FBI data from 2019 to 2020, background checks were up 40%.

In Florida, from November 2019 to January 2020, nearly 350,000 background checks for gun purchases were done, compared to numbers from November 2020 to January 2021, when more than 540,000 background checks were conducted.

This was a 56% increase.

While President Joe Biden used the anniversary of the shootings in Parkland, Florida on Sunday to demand that Congress get to work on his anti-gun agenda, including a ban on modern sporting rifles and ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten rounds, in Florida lawmakers are moving in a different direction; protecting the right to keep and bear arms instead of criminalizing it.

A bill that would expand the right to carry in the state to churches that have educational facilities on the property has cleared a House committee, and even received the support of half of the Democrats on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Mike Grieco called the bill ambitious, but said he would vote in favor of it. That kept him consistent with his past votes.

“I’ve never loved the bill, and I definitely don’t like this version as well as the other ones,” Grieco said…

Miami Rep. James Bush, a minister, said he doesn’t “believe in weapons,” but called them necessary to protect the community.

“If we cannot use weapons to protect the parishioners, what other method can we use to protect those who come in fellowship with us?” Bush asked.

Bush joined Grieco and Lauderdale Lakes Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams in support with Republicans.

Support and opposition from public groups fell along expected lines. Prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer was among those speaking in support.

“The state has no more right to strip away the property rights of religious institutions because of childcare than it does to prohibit me or you from having guns in our homes because we babysit and care for children or grandchildren or homeschool our children or grandchildren,” Hammer said.

Though the reasons for support offered by Democrats are different than the arguments we tend to hear from Republicans, at the end of the day they still supported a good piece of legislation. That’s a positive development, and one that might not have happened were it not for the overwhelming interest in the right to carry by Floridians across the political spectrum.

That interest is likely to grow even larger with Joe Biden turning his attention to gun control issues. If Democrats in Congress begin to advance any anti-gun legislation, including Biden’s gun ban and “buyback” of semi-automatic rifles and ammunition magazines, the surge in demand that began last March will continue for the foreseeable future.

Nikki Fried, the Democrat in charge of the Florida Department of Agriculture and the official overseeing the state’s concealed carry licensing process, may need to up her request for additional funds thanks to the anti-gun efforts of her Democratic colleagues in Washington, D.C., because the record-high number of applications last year could easily be outpaced by the number of Floridians embracing their right to keep and bear arms in 2021.