In a move heralded to put the application process “closer to the people”, a move that some legislators say will make applying for a concealed weapon permit “more convenient” for taxpayers, Sen. Wilton Simpson and Representative James Grant proposed a bill this week to let county tax collectors handle gun permit applications.
The bill (SB 544), if passed by the 2014 Legislature, will essentially make concealed weapon permitting for law-abiding gun owners as easy as renewing an automobile tag or getting a fishing license.
“We encourage efficiency in governmental offices, and always seek to provide excellent customer service,” St Johns County Tax Collector Dennis Hollingsworth told Historic City News today when we asked about his interest in providing the service locally. “Innovation is part of our office mission, and we are willing to provide whatever services necessary to better serve the public while assisting the State in its fulfillment of the law.”
County tax collectors wishing to take on application responsibilities would need approval by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They could charge a “convenience fee” to cover staff time and administration.
Pinellas County tax collector Diane Nelson, who heads the state association of tax collectors, responded to the same questions saying, “Currently, people in my county have to drive over to Tampa to make an application — but this would allow them to have the option of paying the $22 fee and applying here.”
Historic City News did some checking and we found that, as of November 30, there are 11,685 active holders of Concealed Weapon and Firearms permits. That is potentially more than $200,000 in “convenience fees” that could be earned if those licensees elect to renew their permits locally.
There have been customer complaints of “slow processing” by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services over several years; however, spokesman Aaron Keller said the department is “meeting its legal requirement” to process applications within 90-days.
He added that the state expects an increase in applications in 2015 because a large number of concealed weapon licenses are set to expire next year. The Division of Licensing will still be required to investigate and approve applications taken from participating tax collectors; as they do for the eight regional DACS offices; located in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Miami-Dade County, Fort Walton Beach, Orlando, Punta Gorda, Tampa and West Palm Beach.