PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - The State of Florida is on pace to issue over one million concealed weapons permits by the end of this year.
That's more than any other state and its still on the rise. Right now, the state is issuing 10,000 to 15,000 permits per month. That's according to the Florida Department of Agriculture, who operates the gun permit program.
Greg Robichaud teaches public firearms safety classes for the Pensacola Police Department and has seen that increase in demand.
"We average about one gun safety class per quarter, but we could easily do one class per month, and I average about 30 students," Robichaud said.
A spokesperson for the Agriculture Department says the current rate of applications started with what they thought was just a spike three years ago, but the number has stayed steady.
While the reasons are not clear, officials with the department say these trends usually develop around social issues and the most recent upswing in permits began around the last presidential election.
Stan Butler of Mike's Outdoor Sports said at least 50 percent of his handgun sales are to those who already have concealed weapons permits and most of them are first time customers.
"A lot of first time gun buyers," noted Butler. "We're seeing a lot of that. A lot more ladies purchasing handguns or self defense type firearms for the house of for their personal carry."
Escambia County has over 13,000 concealed weapons carriers, Santa Rosa County has 8,600 and Okaloosa County has 12,622.
One interesting trend is a spike in a certain age category.
"It seems the biggest increases have been in the age group of 51 to 65, and females seem to be going a little more towards the concealed weapons permits," said Robichaud.
Most gun owners, like concealed weapons permit holder Mike Washburn aren't surprised by the statistics.
"My question is, ‘What took so long?'" asked Washburn. "I think other states need to follow suit."
Florida residents do not need a concealed weapons permit to keep a handgun in your home or to carry it in your car as long as it is secure and not easily accessible.
For more information on concealed weapons licensing, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.
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