TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State Senate Democrats filed legislation Thursday to transfer Florida's concealed weapon permit system from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

  • SB 108 would hand the gun permit background check system to FDLE
  • Bill aims to prevent lapses from the Dept. of Agriculture
  • NRA lobbyist says permitting process should go to CFO's office
  • More political news

It’s a rearrangement that would hand control of a problem-riddled background check system to an agency that specializes in such checks.

The legislation, SB 108, is aimed at preventing a repeat of the lapses that led the Department of Agriculture to issue hundreds of concealed weapon permits to applicants whose histories made them ineligible to receive them.

News of the permitting errors surfaced in June, prompting Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to mount a vigorous defense of his department.

"Public safety was not at risk. Two-hundred-ninety-one people who should not have gotten a license to carry a concealed weapon did so, but they were revoked as a result of the processes that we put in place," Putnam told reporters at the time.

Florida is one of only a handful of states that have concealed weapon permitting systems run by politically-controlled departments.

For the last 16 years, the process has been overseen by the Agriculture Department, which has been headed exclusively by pro-gun Republicans.

In January, Democrat Nikki Fried will become agriculture commissioner. Perhaps not coincidentally, the National Rifle Association's chief Tallahassee lobbyist is now suggesting that lawmakers move the permitting process to the state Chief Financial Officer's office, which will be occupied for the next four years by Republican Jimmy Patronis.

The NRA recommendation is prompting outrage from gun control advocates, who say moving permitting to the CFO's office would make even less sense than the current scheme.

Putting background checks in the hands of law enforcement professionals, they argue, is a logical step.

Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) began calling for the permitting system overhaul shortly after the news of the background check lapses broke.

"Lives were put in jeopardy by their attempts to conceal what had actually happened and remain in danger now because of their ineptitude," she said in a statement. "This process needs to be immediately taken over by FDLE and these applications need to be re-examined."