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Florida gun-license backlog nears legal limit

7:57 AM, Feb 11, 2013   |    comments
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Anyone who wants a Florida concealed-weapons license may be looking at a long wait as demand skyrockets and the state struggles to keep up.

Last month, 120,340 people either downloaded the application for a license online or requested it by mail, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Licensing. That's compared with 61,131 the month before, and 47,256 in January 2012.

"There is unfortunately a little bit of a wait time right now," said Whitney Shiver, the department's government analyst.

Florida law gives the Division of Licensing 90 days to turn around an application for a concealed-weapons license, and the division is taking close to that full time. About six months ago, processing took closer to 30 to 45 days, Shiver said.

Staff members are doing their best to stay under the 90-day limit, Shiver said. Over the past eight weeks or so, the Division of Licensing has hired 34 temporary employees and authorized overtime hours to help keep up with demand. The department also extended hours in some of its eight regional offices.

Applicants can download the two-page concealed weapons license application online, or request online it be mailed. They also can fill it out at a regional office, but Shiver said that is probably the slowest option.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which conducts background checks on license applicants, is not contributing to the delay, spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. FDLE turns around background checks within 72 hours and has not experienced a backlog, she said.

Leon Goldsmith, 45, of Buckingham wants a concealed-weapon license to streamline the process of buying a firearm for home defense, but it has been about 120 days since he applied, and he doesn't have a permit. Goldsmith and his wife submitted their applications on the same day in early October, and she received hers on Christmas Eve, he said.

"I was starting to get frustrated," Goldsmith said. "I started trying to call their numbers, and I got a recording that says due to a large increase in applications, there was going to be some processing delays," Goldsmith said. I didn't get to talk to a live person or anything."

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' website says it can take longer than 90 days to turn around an application with errors. For example, it could take longer to process cases in which application questions have been missed, checks are for the wrong amount, fingerprints are illegible or background checks show criminal cases with pending dispositions.

Marisa Kendall, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press

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