Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried backs concealed weapon enhancements

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is backing a measure that would require her agency to retain fingerprints of applicants seeking concealed-weapon licenses.

Having a log of the fingerprints would allow her agency’s Concealed Weapon Licensing Program to “immediately access criminal history information on applicants who have committed crimes in other states,” Fried said in a press release Wednesday.

Under current law, “a dangerous loophole exists which could allow individuals who have committed felonies in other states to slip through the cracks,” Fried said in the statement. “Fingerprint retention will help solve this problem and keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.”

The proposal (HB 809), filed by Democratic state Rep. Javier Fernandez of Miami, would shorten the concealed-weapon license renewal period from seven to five years, the maximum length for which the federal government will allow fingerprint retention, according to the release. And the bill, filed for consideration during the legislative session which begins Jan. 14, also would require people who want to renew concealed weapon licenses to submit proof of having completed firearms training or a safety course.

The training would have to take place 6 months immediately before the expiration date of the license, and must be conducted by a state, county or municipal law enforcement agency or a nationally recognized organization “that promotes gun safety.”

Current law requires training prior to the issuance of a concealed weapons permit but not before a license is renewed. The proposal would also reduce the renewal fee for concealed-weapon licenses from $45 to $40.

“These program enhancements will allow us to build on our accountability and public safety initiatives, while ensuring the program functions efficiently,” Fried, whose office oversees the state’s concealed-weapon program, said in the release.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.