Tampa Bay Times columnist Steve Bousquet says gun permits are a growth industry in Florida. Through March, 919,831 people held permits to carry a concealed weapon in Florida, or roughly one of every 15 adults in the state. (More than 106,000 permit holders live in other states.) Four out of five are men. Most are over age 50. Miami-Dade, the state’s biggest county, has the most permit holders, more than 82,000. Broward is second with 72,000.
Requests for permits have escalated in recent years. At the current pace, the number of permit holders will surpass 1 million in the next few months. The Legislature puts Florida’s gun licensing program under the control of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the agency that ensures the safety of fruits and vegetables. The agency reports that February and March were the two busiest months on record for gun permits, with 53,835 in February and 52,712 in March (those totals include new permits and renewals). The February number was more than 10,000 higher than the same month in 2011, and nearly twice as high as 2010. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam cites familiar theories such as economic uncertainty, fears of stricter gun control or worries of rising crime, though the violent crime rate in Florida has been declining for several years.