By: José Niño
Florida is unique among states in how its concealed weapons licensing system is under the purview of the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.
Nikki Fried, the current agriculture commissioner, is the only Democrat elected to statewide office in the Sunshine State. In this position, Fried has used her power to undermine the Second Amendment, despite how popular the Concealed Weapon or Firearm Licensing (CWFL) program is among law-abiding Floridians.
As Lee Williams, chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project, observed, Florida’s licensing division has issued north of 2.4 million CWFLs. This division falls under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which Fried heads.
Due to how thoroughly anti-Second Amendment Democrats have become, Florida Republicans justifiably fear that Fried would not hesitate in using her post to undermine gun rights. As a result, several elected officials entertained the idea of taking the CWFL program away from Fried’s control and transferring all matters dealing with concealed carry licenses to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This plan, however, never came to pass.
Fried is currently running for governor against incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis. In addition, she’s taken advantage of the level of access to sensitive gun owner data that her position affords her. She showcased her abuse of power back in late July, when she tweeted, “I just suspended the concealed weapons permits of 22 people involved in the insurrection against the United States of America instigated by Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.”
According to Florida state law, Fried can suspend the concealed carry licenses of individuals who are charged with a specific set of crimes, such as felonies or misdemeanors related to domestic violence. In effect, an individual could be barred from buying the firearm until the case is fully settled.
Though not every crime leads to the immediate deprivation of the right to bear arms, some of the participants in the January 6 storming of the Capitol were indeed charged with misdemeanors. But these misdemeanor charges were not criminal penalties that would land a Floridian on a prohibited purchasers list. In total, Fried suspended 22 individuals’ licenses.
This move spurred Eric Friday, general counsel for Florida Carry, Inc., a grassroots pro-Second Amendment organization, to send a public records request to Fried’s office.
Williams, (chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project), noted that Friday sent a public records request that sought the following information:
“1. All notices of suspension of license or notice of intent to suspend, or any other communication sent to the 22 individuals by Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, or the Department of Agriculture, Division of Licensing as set forth in the Tweet by Commissioner Fried; 2. All charging documents or other information relied upon to suspend the 22 licensees identified in Commissioner Fried’s Tweet; 3. All information received from any law enforcement agency, a court, or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement regarding the 22 licensees and the arrests or charges which form the basis for the suspension of the license; and 4. Any subsequent written verification regarding the 22 licensees received by the Department of Agriculture from any law enforcement agency, a court, or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.”
In his request, Friday did not inquire about the names or other relevant information that would identify the 22 individuals whose licenses were suspended.
Friday noted this in his request:
“Because the individually identifying information such as name and address of the 22 licensees is protected from disclosure by law, this information may be redacted from any documents responsive to this request.”
Fried’s decision to ignore the public records request is a violation of state law. In light of recent actions, it’s become clear that Fried doesn’t care much for carrying out her public service in accordance with Florida law. In October, for example, she suspended the concealed carry licenses of six additional January 6 participants. She described these individuals as “domestic terrorists” and “traitors.”
“Today I’m announcing the suspension of six licenses of domestic terrorists who participated in the January 6 insurrection attempt against the United States,” Fried declared in an October 19 tweet. “That brings our total to 28 suspensions. As more charges are filed, we will continue to hold these traitors accountable.”
Fried provided another statement justifying her move:
“The storming of the Capitol on January 6th where we witnessed acts of violence and domestic terrorism intended to undermine our democratic institutions shook our nation to its core – and its impact continues to be felt every day. The individuals involved must be held accountable for their treasonous actions. While Florida has the shameful distinction of being home to the largest proportion of individuals charged in relation to the insurrection, our department has been using its lawful authority and carrying out its legal duty to suspend the licenses of anyone charged with disqualifying offenses. When we announced the initial 22 suspensions earlier this summer, we made it clear that this would be an ongoing effort and that additional suspensions and revocations would be issued as additional charges were filed and sentences rendered. Since that time, FDACS has suspended six additional licenses of individuals related to the insurrection, and should further charges and sentences come down, we will enact further suspensions and revocations of licenses issued by our department as required by Florida statute.”
A few days after making the statement, Fried disclosed that her department received Friday’s public records request, albeit three months after the lawyer sent the request:
Thank you for contacting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (the department). Please consider this response as acknowledgement of the department’s receipt of your public records request. … You are encouraged to frequently check the GovQA portal for updates, clarification requests or cost estimates (if applicable). To search for updates to your submitted request, click on the “My Request Center” link and then click “Search by Reference Number”.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Public Records
Despite the response from Fried’s office, her office has not provided any of the documents that Florida Carry has asked for in its public records request.
Sean Caranna, executive director and co-founder of Florida Carry, shared his thoughts on the matter:
“The reason that the licensing program was transferred to the Department of Agriculture years ago was to make sure that there would be an elected official who could be held responsible by the voters for abusing, misusing and failing to properly administer Florida’s first-of-its-kind shall-issue licensing program. Nikki Fried has just provided an important example of why that decision is still well-founded. She has mismanaged the program, infringed upon the people’s right to keep and bear arms, denied licenses without providing proof or evidence that people are disqualified, and now she uses secret information that is supposed to be confidential for her own political gains.”
Florida is a solid red state, with Republicans controlling all the branches of government — Governor’s mansion, State House, and State Senate. That doesn’t deter the Left, though, which is relentlessly looking for ways to infringe on our freedoms. Like a good leftist, Fried is diligently using every mechanism at her disposal to undermine Florida from within.
In 2018, Republicans dropped the ball by passing red flag gun confiscation orders and other gun control measures, such as a bump stock ban in the wake of the Parkland massacre. As a result, Democrat officials like Fried have been emboldened on issues pertaining to gun rights.
According to Guns & Ammo magazine’s Best States for Gun Owners and Best States for Concealed Carry rankings, Florida is ranked in 25thand 22nd place respectively. In sum, there’s a lot of work to be done on the Second Amendment front in Florida.
The best way Floridians can defend their gun rights is by going on offense and rolling back all gun control on the books in the Sunshine State. Gun owners should take advantage of the solid Republican majorities they hold in Florida and use them to stop gun control and pass legislation that empowers lawful Floridian gun owners.
The days of solely playing defense are over.