Over on the West Coast, at the offices of the Washington State Attorney General, the phones have been buzzing with angry callers. Florida is the reason why. Until recently, the two state's shared reciprocity for concealed weapons permits, meaning that the right paper in one state would greenlight you to pack heat in the other.
But due to some changes passed last year by Florida legislators, Washington automatically ended the two-way deal. With the state no longer recognizing Sunshine-state stamped licenses, the well-oiled mechanics of the pro-gun lobby are kicking into gear. The ire is aimed at Washington's Attorney General, Bob Ferguson.
Specifically, the National Rifle Association and its ilk are hot about the fact that Washington doesn't allow anyone under 21 to have a permit, even if they're a military veteran. Florida allows it.
In blustery, iron-spined prose that reads like it should be soundtracked by the G.I. Joe theme, the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action this week called for members to mobilize against Ferguson's "unconscionable" decision. Cue the trumpets:
Our nation trains 18 year old men and women in firearms proficiency then sends them off to war and asks them to give their lives, if necessary, in the cause of Freedom.
When they have served our nation honorably and returned home to private life, it is unconscionable to tell them our state will not allow them to qualify for a concealed weapons and firearms license so they may protect themselves and their family because they have not yet reached the age of 21.
Florida has honored our veterans, and for that, all law-abiding Florida license holders have been punished by Attorney General Ferguson.
Ferguson isn't sitting pretty with the NRA to begin with. As the gun-rights org's release says right out the gate, the Democrat didn't fill out one of the group's patented candidate questionnaires. And he's from Washington, where people drink micro brews, smoke legal weed, and are known to dabble in discourse a little more thoughtful than press releases that capitalize common nouns.
When New Times called up Ferguson's office on the West Coast Thursday afternoon, staffers said they'd been fielding a high volume of calls from gun supporters over the issue. "We are receiving calls from members of the NRA, but you're the first call from the media," Janelle Guthrie, the AG's communications director explained.
In a follow-up email, Guthrie explained Ferguson's office is just going with the law. The state's statute is crustal-clear about the requirements for recognizing other state's weapons permits in Washington: the outside jurisdiction must recognize Washington's carry licenses; must not issue concealed licenses to persons under 21; and must require fingerprint-based background checks for mental health and criminal history.
"Florida amended its law in 2012 to eliminate the minimum age requirement of 21 for active service members or veterans who were honorably discharged. As a result, Florida joined the 39 other states who are not eligible for reciprocity in Washington due to Washington state law," Guthrie wrote.
"Washington's law recognizing concealed pistol/handgun licenses from other states is clear, unambiguous and confers no discretion on the Attorney General to ignore or waive any of its requirements."
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