Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried today sent a letter to Attorney General Ashley Moody, in response to a letter received yesterday from the Attorney General inquiring about the continued processing of concealed weapons licenses. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is responsible under Florida law for issuing concealed weapons licenses.
The letter from Commissioner Fried may be downloaded here, and reads as follows:
The Honorable Ashley Moody
Florida Department of Legal Affairs
The Capitol – Plaza Level 01
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
April 22, 2020
Attorney General Moody,
Thank you for your correspondence regarding Florida’s concealed weapons licensing program. I regret to inform you that your understanding regarding the processing of concealed weapons license applications is incorrect. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and our Division of Licensing remain committed to processing concealed weapons license applications expeditiously and in full accordance with the law.
As you know, the Governor on March 19 directed that many state offices shall be closed to the public to protect the health of the public and state employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has rendered our department unable to take fingerprints for concealed weapons license applicants at this time.
Pursuant to 790.06(5)(c), Florida Statutes, concealed weapons license applicants may obtain fingerprints through three lawful sources: a Department of Agriculture office, a law enforcement agency, or an approved tax collector. Applications from applicants providing these fingerprints are continuing to be processed as normal.
However, pursuant to 790.06(6)(c)2, Florida Statutes, an application shall be denied if after 90 days the applicant fails to qualify under the criteria listed in subsections (2) and (3), which includes submitting “a full set of fingerprints.”
Because our department has no mechanism through which to issue refunds for denied applications, and to prevent frustration from applicants submitting online applications but unable to obtain fingerprints and who would otherwise be denied, the department has temporarily suspended online applications. This action is consistent with state law and is in the interest of Floridians seeking concealed weapons licenses, who may submit applications by mail or through tax collector offices, as normal.
Contrary to the misinformation you may have seen, there is no delay in processing applications. In fact, throughout these unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, our devoted Division of Licensing staff has processed 29,048 new applications and 25,742 renewal applications since March 1, with an average review time of 1 to 2 days. This continues our record of success in bringing full accountability to the concealed weapons licensing program while reducing initial review times up to 98 percent, compared to my predecessor’s administration.
In fact, I have taken bold action to preserve the rights of law-abiding concealed weapons licensees during this public health crisis. This includes issuing Emergency Order 2020-004, which on March 20 extended the expiration date of any expiring concealed weapons license by 30 days, and waived all renewal late fees; on April 20, I extended this action by Emergency Order 2020-009 by an additional 60 days.
I would have been pleased to provide an update on these matters at any meeting of the Florida Cabinet, which I have called upon the Governor to schedule since March 2. Given that my department is processing concealed weapons license applications without delay and consistent with all applicable laws, there should be no undue concern regarding frivolous litigation.
However, if you are seeking to review the state’s handling of applications, I would encourage you to investigate the negligence with which the state’s unemployment system has handled applications for unemployment assistance. While my department has processed 100 percent of applications we have received, the Governor’s agency responsible for unemployment had processed approximately 6 percent of received applications as recently as this Monday.
I appreciate your concern that, as you wrote, “government continue to take actions that allow Floridians to feel safe and secure in these uncertain times.” I could not agree more.
If you have further questions regarding this matter, you may contact my Office of General Counsel.
Commissioner of Agriculture