TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Amid political fighting about the issue, a Northwest Florida resident has filed a lawsuit challenging a decision by state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to suspend accepting online applications for concealed-weapons licenses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cliff Maloney, an Okaloosa County resident who is president of the group Young Americans for Liberty, filed the lawsuit Friday in Leon County circuit court, alleging the decision by Fried violated his 2nd Amendment rights and state law.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees concealed-weapons licenses, to resume accepting applications online.
“(The) department and the commissioner have subjectively, arbitrarily and capriciously denied the rights of honest, law-abiding persons, which the statute was designed to protect, by making it more difficult for them to obtained concealed weapon licenses,” the lawsuit said.
As many state offices closed in March because of COVID-19, Fried announced that the department would not accept online applications for concealed-weapons licenses. In an April 22 letter to Attorney General Ashley Moody, Fried wrote that a directive from Gov. Ron DeSantis to close offices “rendered our department unable to take fingerprints for concealed weapons license applicants at this time.”
Floridians, however, could continue to submit applications by mail or through county tax collector offices, with applications being processed, Fried wrote in the letter.
The decision by Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, has led to political fighting, with groups such as the National Rifle Association criticizing her and groups such as the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence supporting her. It also led to a somewhat-unusual terse exchange of letters last month between Moody and Fried about the issue. That was followed last week by a Fried political committee sending out an email that attacked the NRA and Moody.