Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried returned fire on a demand by Attorney General Ashley Moody that the Commissioner reopen online concealed carry permit applications.
The Attorney General fears Florida residents may sue the state over the delay during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Fried puts it plainly in a letter being delivered to Moody later Thursday morning:
“I regret to inform you that your understanding regarding the processing of concealed weapons license applications is incorrect.”
After Gov. Ron DeSantis recommended state offices limit their operations and close doors to the public, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Licensing stopped taking fingerprints necessary for a permit. On March 23, the division made that move to suspend online applications to save applicants the headache of the division not being able to issue a refund when applications would be inevitably denied.
Fried says the department will still accept new applications with fingerprints from a law enforcement agency or tax collectors’ office, the two other approved sites to get fingerprinted.
Law enforcement agencies and tax collectors’ offices, the only other places with fingerprinting services valid for a weapons license, have also closed their fingerprinting services.
“Contrary to the misinformation you may have seen, there is no delay in processing applications,” Fried wrote. “In fact, throughout these unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, our devoted Division of Licensing staff has processed 29,048 new applications and 25,742 renewal applications since March 1, with an average review time of 1 to 2 days.”
In a Tuesday letter (see below), Moody highlighted a suit in Georgia, filed last week, alleging that a county judge violated the state constitution by considering the approval of concealed weapons licenses a non-essential function.
Other Georgia judges have taken the same stance. The lawsuit Moody mailed Fried was the second such suit filed by GeorgiaCarry.Org this month over concealed carry licenses.
“I understand that it is likely more difficult for Floridians to obtain fingerprints,” she wrote. “But those difficulties would equally exist for mailed-in applications, which your agency purports to still be accepting.”
But where Moody kept her ask to the concealed carry issue, Fried didn’t stick to the prompt, casting dispersions beyond the Department of Legal Affairs. The Commissioner then roped in Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“I would have been pleased to provide an update on these matters at any meeting of the Florida Cabinet, which I have called upon the Governor to schedule since March 2,” Fried writes.
Fried also threw shade at DeSantis’ embattled Department of Economic Opportunity director Ken Lawson. Last week, the Governor benched Lawson on oversight of the unemployment application system. Instead, he tapped Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter to rescue the floundering application system.
“However, if you are seeking to review the state’s handling of applications, I would encourage you to investigate the negligence with which the state’s unemployment system has handled applications for unemployment assistance,” she wrote. “While my department has processed 100 percent of applications we have received, the Governor’s agency responsible for unemployment had processed approximately 6 percent of received applications as recently as this Monday.”
The Attorney General also noted that the pandemic has forced state agencies to reevaluate business operations and that the threat would continue until the virus is contained.
“However, it is imperative that government continue to take actions that allow Floridians to feel safe and secure in these uncertain times, protect Floridians’ constitutional rights, and avoid potential costly litigation that can easily be avoided,” she said.
On March 20, Fried’s department extended the expiration date on permits set to run their course during the COVID-19 pandemic for 30 days. Then on Monday, Fried extended the emergency order again, this time for 60 days.
Here is Moody’s letter to Fried:
And here is Fried’s response to Moody: