There is talk about efforts to pass “assault weapon” permitting laws in the 2019 legislative session.
The point is practically moot in Florida where Republicans rule the roost in the House, Senate, Governor’s Mansion and, very soon, the state Supreme Court.
We’re not likely to see any meaningful gun control. But it’s clear we can do a better job of the protections in place, including concealed carry licensing. It currently resides under the state agricultural commissioner.
Outgoing Commissioner Adam Putnam was embroiled in a controversy in which his office was accused of allowing hundreds of criminals to get carry permits. At least 300 permits were subsequently revoked.
Let’s agree on one thing: Licensing concealed weapons permits does not belong under the purview of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
So now Tallahassee is in a red-hot hurry to yank the permitting authority from the ag department. The reason is Nikki Fried’s election to that seat on Nov. 6. She is a Democrat who campaigned on tougher gun control laws.
That won’t do in Tallahassee, though it was, for some reason, fine when a Republican held the office. The interesting twist is Fried, herself, wants the authority moved out of her office — and that’s to to her credit.
Now the certain battle will reside elsewhere. It’s not a matter of moving the authority elsewhere — it is where.
The Legislature will push hard to put state CFO Jimmy Patronis’ office in charge of permits. It’s as dumb of an idea as hanging them on the ag commissioner. But Patronis is a Republican. And the National Rifle Association is pushing just as hard to make that happen. It could have something to do with NRA campaign contributions’ and lawmakers’ gun control points of view ...
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer says a bad place to put the responsibility for concealed carry licensing is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because “you don’t want this in an agency where the people are beholden to somebody who is a political appointee.”
She concluded, “Law enforcement agencies are the worst place for a program like this.”
Let’s forget for the moment that Patronis got his job as the state CFO as a political appointee of Gov. Rick Scott last year.
Currently, the FDLE does all the background checks for the concealed carry permits and enforces the gun laws. Not the ag commissioner. So who better to take over the permitting process than the agency that actually does the background checks and enforces the gun laws?
It’s a no-brainer. But politics trumps brains with astonishing consistency during legislative session — especailly when gun laws, the NRA and Hammer are involved.
If we were betting people, we’d bet you’ll see Patronis in charge of to whom and how concealed carry permits are issued in Florida.
Turn it around, it makes as much sense as putting the FDLE in charge of state finances.
But there you have it.
This editorial originally appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner.