Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- A bill filed in the state Senate could take some of the pain out of applying for a concealed weapon permit.
If passed during the spring session, the bill would open more locations where Florida residents can apply.
Currently,residents must submit applications through one of eight regionaloffices of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.The only Southwest Florida office is in Punta Gorda.
SenateBill 544, filed Dec. 17 by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, would allowtax collectors to accept concealed weapon applications as well. Thereare six Lee County Tax Collector offices.
Applyingfor a concealed weapon permit is a hassle, and the new bill could help,said Jon Dezendorf, manager of Fowler Firearms in Fort Myers.
"I approve of it 100 percent," he said. "Because the more locations the better. Get this thing taken care of."
Applicationstaken by the tax collector's office still would be sent to theDepartment of Agriculture and Consumer Services for processing, saidDepartment spokesman Aaron Keller. The requirements wouldn't change -applicants would still be required to take a concealed weapon class andpass a background check.
"Itwould be another way for consumers to get it to us," Keller said. "Andjust having more staff, it would certainly help cut down on some of thatwork load."
Thewait time for an appointment at the Punta Gorda office on Friday wasabout a week. The wait at the six Lee County Tax Collector offices wasabout 15-30 minutes.
Demandfor licenses skyrocketed at the beginning of the year, after the SandyHook Elementary School shooting prompted lawmakers to propose new guncontrol measures. The state could barely process license applicationswithin the mandated 90-day period and hired 34 employees to help withthe backlog.
Demandhas since gone down, and applications typically take 40-45 days, Kellersaid. But he expects an increase in renewal applicants in 2015, as manylicenses are set to expire. In 2008 the renewal period changed fromevery five years to every seven years. In 2015 the first batch of sevenyear licenses will be up for renewal.
Concealed weapon license applicants also can download the necessaryforms online and mail them to the Department of Agriculture and ConsumerServices. But they need to have their fingerprints and passportphotograph taken, and have the forms notarized. Many people find iteasier to do it all at once at the Punta Gorda office, Dezendorf said.
Thisfiscal year, 46 percent of applications were submitted at one of thedepartment's eight regional offices, according to Keller.
Thetax collector's office also is equipped to take fingerprints,photographs and notarize documents, said Larry Hart, Lee County taxcollector.
"It should be a very minimal impact on my office," Hart said. "We process paperwork for the state every day."
Ifthe bill passes, Hart will apply through the Department of Agricultureand Consumer Services to be one of the tax collectors authorized to takeapplications. If his office is accepted, he probably will roll out theservice in two county offices first.
"We'll start it, and we'll monitor it," Hart said. "And if it's a concern, we'll make adjustments."
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