By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The wait time for appointments and applications for concealed weapons permits may soon be drastically reduced, said the county tax collector.
The state legislature is scheduled to vote on a bill this session that would allow the Department of Agriculture to give tax collectors authority to collect the information needed to apply for or renew the permits for carrying concealed weapons, said Carole Jean Jordan, Indian River County tax collector.
Once the bill has been approved, there would be a few pilot sites for the program to be tested and Indian River County would be one of those sites, she said.
Currently, individuals interested in the permit must make an appointment at one of eight Department of Agriculture regional offices, or to the main office in Tallahassee, and fill out an application. The application includes payment, fingerprinting, a photograph, and electronic paperwork for identification and background information.
People can also mail in the information after getting the photo and fingerprints done at approved locations.
The problem with the current process is that it often takes two or more months to get an appointment, Ms. Jordan said.
By opening the tax collectors’ offices to the permit application process, for a small convenience fee, constituents can receive their permits in a much shorter amount of time and not have to drive to a regional office several counties away to get their information in the system, Ms. Jordan said.
The tax collectors offices have taken on the tasks of issuing driver licenses, tags and renewals, so collecting and handling the private information of individuals securely and safely is already in place.
“It would add to the one-stop shopping that we can offer the public,” Ms. Jordan said.
The tax collector’s office would be the information gatherer only, the final approval for the applications would still come from Tallahassee, she said.
Marion Hammer, current lobbyist for and past president of the NRA, said the current process takes much too long. Legislators should recognize this idea will streamline the process, and because the applications are ever increasing, the more help the Department of Agriculture can get, the better.
In 2009, applications for concealed weapon permits skyrocketed and the numbers have been increasing ever since, Ms. Hammer said.
There are a variety of reasons for the increase, including politics and further regulations about carrying weapons in vehicles, but no matter the reason, fixing the process is necessary, she said.
The convenience fee for the local permit applications will be relatively small, likely to be less than it would cost for an individual to drive around town getting the fingerprints and photo and then driving to a regional office, Ms. Jordan said.
If approved in this legislative session, permits could be available in Indian River County in June 2013.
For more information about the services offered by the Indian River County tax collector’s office, visit www.irctax.com.