The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services faces lawsuit for halting online concealed carry applications

Published: May. 11, 2020 at 6:44 PM EDT
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A lawsuit has been filed against The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for halting online concealed carry applications.

It alleges the pause has infringed on Floridians’ second amendment rights.

Floridian’s haven’t been able to apply for a concealed carry permit online for six weeks now.

The Department’s website says the pause is due to COVID-19, but President of Young Americans for Liberty Cliff Maloney argues the Department and its leader, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried have no legal right to halt applications.

“She's putting out political E-mails and working with gun-grabbing groups to try to send a message here,” said Maloney.

He’s filed suit against the Department and Fried, who is the lone statewide elected Democrat.

Maloney hopes to force the Department to reopen the online process.

“We are just trying to make sure that every single person in the State of Florida has the right to defend themselves and has the right to defend their family, something Nikki Fried does not have the right to dictate,” said Maloney.

The Department argues the pause is to prevent people from submitting incomplete applications, being denied and losing their nonrefundable application fee.

Applicants must submit fingerprints from one of its regional offices, a tax collector’s office or police department, but many have been closed to the public throughout the pandemic.

Florida law doesn’t specifically call for concealed carry applications to be made available online, but Maloney noted, the Department of Agriculture is still accepting hemp cultivation applications online, which also require fingerprints.

The Department is still processing paper applications for concealed carry.

It’s completed more than 54,000 since March 1st.

But Maloney argues the Department’s justifications are missing the point.

“They don't have the right to make an argument. Right? As I said this is a 'shall' issue state. Her job is to make sure that we meet the requirements and then offer the permit,” said Maloney.

Other groups including the NRA have come out in support of the suit.

Former NRA President Marion Hammer told us in a statement, “The Commissioner of Agriculture is NOT above the law despite the fact that Nikki Fried obviously thinks she should be. It is clear that In her efforts to deny gun rights she also violated Florida law.”

Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody also warned Fried last month that halting online applications may open her office up to a lawsuit.

A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture sent us this statement on the suspension of online applications: “This action is consistent with state law and is in the interest of Floridians seeking concealed weapons licenses — anyone who wants to apply can submit applications with fingerprint cards from a law enforcement agency by mail or through tax collector offices, as normal.”

The Attorney General’s Office told us it has not been contacted to represent the Florida Department of Agriculture in the case.