Gun owners up in arms over Florida lawmakers' raid on trust fund
NRA blasts Charlie Crist for $6 million taken from concealed weapons permits fund
By Aaron Deslatte | Tallahassee Bureau
May 22, 2009
TALLAHASSEE - In the latest show of the influence Florida's gun lobby holds over state politics, Gov. Charlie Crist's office has been bombarded by tens of thousands of complaints from angry gun owners.
The spark: Lawmakers this month took $6 million from a trust fund meant to help process concealed-weapons permits.
The funding "sweep" was part of a broader $600million raid on trust funds set up to finance dedicated government services or programs. Lawmakers chose to use the money instead to help pay operating expenses for schools, health care and other government programs.
The $6 million came out of roughly $8 million in a concealed-weapons- and firearms-licensing fund, which is financed through application fees and used to pay for equipment and other expenses in the state office that handles gun permits.
The NRA's powerful lobbyist, Marion Hammer, said she was blindsided by the move and launched a lobbying campaign calling it a "last-minute sneak attack" on gun owners.
Since then, gun enthusiasts from across Florida and other states have e-mailed, called and written letters to urge Crist to veto the sweep. Crist's office has totaled more than 25,000 so far.
Tim Larin, an NRA member from San Ramon, Calif., wrote that the sweep was "a de facto tax on the exercise of the Second Amendment."
"Who is running your state anyway?" wrote Jim Hathcoat, of Olathe, Kan.
Hammer said depleting the fund could cause serious backlogs if equipment in the permitting office within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were to break down. The state already tapped the fund earlier this year to try to reduce a backlog of permit requests that have flooded the state recently, Hammer said.
"If the computer system crashed, then we'd have to go on state welfare, and gun owners don't take kindly to programs that aren't self-sufficient," said Hammer.
Crist said Thursday that he had heard the call and was considering vetoing the transfer when he signs the $66 billion budget next week.
After meeting with Hammer, the governor was asked what they spoke about.
"What did I tell her? That I love her," Crist said.
"We had a very good discussion. She's quite an advocate. I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment
, and I look forward to giving that potential veto a thorough review and making a determination."