01/29/2007

Report: Felons exploit loopholes in Fla. concealed weapons law

The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida- Hundreds of criminals were able to obtain concealed weapons permits in Florida because of loopholes, errors and miscommunication, a newspaper reported Sunday.

An analysis of state records shows the roughly 410,000 Floridians licensed to carry hidden guns included 1,400 who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 with outstanding warrants, 128 named in active domestic violence injunctions and six registered sex offenders, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

"I had no idea," said Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson, who sits on an advisory panel for the state Division of Licensing, which issues permits for carrying concealed weapons. "I think the system, somewhere down the line, is broken. I guarantee you the ordinary person doesn't know (that) ... and I'd venture to guess that 160 legislators in Florida don't know that, either."

The newspaper also said it found that concealed weapons permits have soared from roughly 25,000 in 1987, the first year carrying a concealed gun was legal in Florida, to more than 410,000.

The newspaper obtained the names of people on the state's concealed weapons permit list shortly before state lawmakers sealed it from public scrutiny July 1.

Marion Hammer, a 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, however, say the NRA pressures lawmakers to ignore the problem.

"The people who are intimately familiar with these laws, the people at the NRA, they know exactly what's going on," said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the nonprofit Violence Policy Center.

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