JANUARY 29, 2007
Fugitives and violent criminals continue to carry concealed weapon licenses in Florida because the state agency that issues them does not revoke them when a person has been convicted of a felony and a new “privacy law,” keeps the negligence undercover.
More than 400,000 people are licensed to carry hidden guns for protection in the Sunshine State but the agency that grants the license doesn’t keep track of violators who should lose the privilege, including those responsible for assaults, burglaries, sexual battery, drug possession and child molestation.
A newspaper review of the negligence among Florida’s Division of Licensing analyzed a database of the state’s concealed weapon holders for a three-month period and found that the state had not suspended the licenses of 216 people with active warrants, 128 with domestic violence restraining orders, nine people charged with felonies and at least one prison inmate, convicted of sexual battery on a child.
The newspaper conducted the investigation when state legislators rushed to pass a new law the middle of 2006 that suddenly made personal identifying information pertaining to a concealed weapon or firearm license confidential and exempt from previously available public records requests.
Among the appalling examples of the state agency’s negligence is a Tampa pizza deliveryman who kept his gun license for four years even though he fatally shot a teenager over a stolen order of chicken wings, a man who severely beat another at a nightclub and a Middle Eastern man who reported for jury duty with a gun in his backpack, a copy of the Quran and 20 DVDs of extremely violent tactical games in Arabic.
Because the Middle Eastern man had a license to carry a gun, he was charged with a misdemeanor weapon permit violation which under state law does not require revocation of his gun license. In other cases, officials who oversee the weapons program at the Florida Division of Licensing say they are overworked and therefore don’t have the resources to revoke every weapons license that merits it.
In the meantime, hundreds and possibly thousands of violent criminals are roaming the streets in Florida with legal permission to carry a gun. Perhaps that is why state legislators frantically passed a law to keep this damaging information from going public.
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