The number of people licensed to carry concealed weapons in Florida has tripled since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and now represents almost one of every 13 Floridians.
That ratio includes an undetermined number in the millions of Floridians who are not eligible for concealed weapons licenses, such as children, people convicted of certain, disqualifying felonies, or other legally-disqualified people. Among qualified holders, the proportion of Florida residents who are licensed to carry guns in public now is likely closer to one of every 10 Floridians.
The rapidly-growing popularity of concealed guns in Florida will again be a factor in the Legislative Session this year, as pro-gun lawmakers again seek to expand rights for gun-toting citizens. This week state Rep. Scott Plakon, the Longwood Republican, introduced another bill seeking to eliminate the ban on concealed guns on colleges.
One thing is certain: concealed weapons are skyrocketing in popularity in the Sunshine State.
At the end of November, Florida was counting 1.68 million valid concealed weapons licenses, according to data provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which manages gun licenses, and analyzed by FloridaPolitics.com.
The license total includes a couple hundred thousand out-of-staters. But records show more than 1.46 million Florida residents are currently licensed to carry guns in public.
Under current Florida law, they can carry them, concealed, anywhere, except into law enforcement stations, courthouses, jails, polling places, schools, governing meetings such as Florida Legislature meetings, bars, airports, federal offices, or colleges and universities, plus a few obscure places defined in details of Florida law.
Florida’s concealed weapon licenses total is up from 511,868 in 2008, a total that included an unavailable number of out-of-state licensees.
The surge in popularity actually predates Obama’s inauguration in 2009, or any recent fears that gun-owners might feel about Democrats’ taking their guns away. The state has seen double-digit increases in the numbers of license approvals every year since 2005.
Not surprisingly, the licenses are generally most popular in rural counties. In Dixie County, in the Big Bend region of Florida’s Nature Coast, about one of every six residents has a license to carry a concealed gun, according to state license and Census bureau data. Several other largely rural counties such as Holmes, Jackson, Wakulla, and Suwannee also have significant ratios of concealed gun licenses per capita.
Yet so do a handful of semi-suburban counties. Outside of Jacksonville, better than one out of every ten Clay and Nassau counties’ residents could be packing. The same is true in Lake County outside of Orlando.
Among urban counties, only Duval and Lee have concealed weapon license rates higher than the state average. In Miami-Dade, one of every 21 people can legally carry. In Orange and Broward, it’s one out of 17; Hillsborough, one out of 16; and in Pinellas and Palm Beach, one out of 15.
Three-quarters of the licenses are held by men, and a quarter by women. They’re most popular among people over the age of 50, according to state data.