January 29, 2007

Florida: Still the 'gunshine' state

FORT LAUDERDALE - A pizza driver wanted for fatally shooting a teen customer over stolen chicken wings and a man convicted of choking and slapping his 4-year-old nephew for playing with a light switch are among those licensed by the state of Florida to carry concealed guns, a newspaper reported Sunday.

A South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis of state records found loopholes, errors and miscommunication gave hundreds of criminals access to concealed weapons permits.

Among the roughly 410,000 Floridians licensed to carry a hidden gun: 1,400 people who pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 people with outstanding warrants, 128 people with active domestic violence injunctions and six registered sex offenders, the newspaper reported. [....]

The analysis also found that the number of concealed weapons permits have soared since the state legislature gave Floridians the opportunity to carry concealed guns in 1987.

Statewide the number of concealed weapons licenses increased from roughly 25,000 to more than 410,000.

In rural Dixie County one of every 24 residents has a permit to carry a concealed gun, the Sun-Sentinel analysis found.

In Miami-Dade County, the number of licenses has jumped from 2,200 to 42,521 as of Dec. 31. In Broward County, the numbers soared from 25 to 35,884. [....]

Marion Hammer, a Tallahassee lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, blamed law enforcement gaps, "bleeding-heart, criminal-coddling judges and prosecutors" for missteps that put guns in the hands of criminals.

Critics say the NRA pressures lawmakers to ignore the problem.

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