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Florida’s New Ag Commissioner to Revamp Firearm Permit Program

James Song via FLICKR Creative Commons

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services-elect, Nikki Fried, doesn’t actually take office until January, but says she’s already begun talks with department employees about making changes in the state’s concealed weapons permit program

Nikki Fried said that under her leadership, the Dept. of Agriculture will conduct a complete audit of Florida’s process for vetting concealed weapons permit applicants.  Fried said she wants to see that responsibility transferred from the Dept. of Agriculture to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“Law enforcement is already so instrumental in the process and that way you get politics out of this,” said Fried.

“We saw after the primary that 300 e-mails were released between the Department of Agriculture and the NRA lobbyist (Marion Hammer) where had direct influence over policies that were coming out of the Department of Agriculture.”

Those e-mails were obtained and published by the Tampa Bay Times.

Outgoing state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam came under fire earlier this year when an Office of Inspector General report revealed that between February 2016 and March 2017, a staffer failed to run firearm applicants through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System because she couldn’t log into the system.  As a result, 291 issued firearm permits were revoked. 

“We need to do an audit of the Department to figure out exactly what happened,” said Fried.  “Why somebody was able to not login for 13 months and whether that could ever happen again.  We need to make sure those holes are plugged.” 

Fried notes that she is among the more than 1.9 million concealed carry permit holders in Florida.

“I’ve had that for about five years.  I have my own gun,” said Fried.

“I’m not looking to prolong the process.  I’m looking to make sure that its done in an efficient and effective manner and that those who are not supposed to get their concealed weapons permits don’t, but those that have every right to and have no issues on background get it in a timely manner.”

Fried’s efforts to revamp the program are also likely play out in next year’s state legislative session.  In late November, state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, filed a bill (SB 108) to transfer the concealed weapons licensing program from the Dept. of Agriculture to the FDLE.