February 03, 2007

Felons with firearms: Florida's criminal secret

S.P. TIMES EDITORIAL - Florida allows 410,000 people to conceal weapons in public, but the guns themselves may not be the worst of the state's secrets. The other hidden outrage, now revealed by reporters from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, is that criminals are on the list.

The Sun-Sentinel attributed the licensing practices to a combination of lax legislation, glaring loopholes, sloppy communications between the licensing agency and law enforcement, and negligence. The newspaper's tote board for questionable concealed weapons licenses is indeed a frightening one: 1,400 people who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 with outstanding warrants, 128 with active domestic violence injunctions, and six registered sex offenders.

As matters of public safety go, this one is unthinkable. How can Florida give criminals the explicit permission to hide guns in public?


Two decades after Florida lawmakers wrote one of the most permissive concealed weapons laws in the nation, the politicians are only too eager to look the other way.

Incredibly, that is precisely the action legislators took last year on concealed weapons. They voted, at the behest of the NRA, to remove concealed weapons permits from the public record.

The Sun-Sentinel report, in fact, was based on the last publicly available list of weapons permits, prior to the July 1 deadline. As for which criminals have received permits since that time, the public may never know.

The 160 lawmakers will get a chance, when they open their regular session in March, to demonstrate whether they too have been left in the dark. They'll have a chance to voice their alarm, to demand an investigation and to seek changes in the law. If they don't, then consider them all accessories after the fact - accessories to criminals with concealed guns.

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