JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Walking down the street or shopping at a store, you probably have no idea who has a gun with them. According to the state, more than 1.4 million Floridians hold permits to legally carry weapons.
In an informal survey, most people guessed that Miami-Dade County would have the highest rate of people carrying weapons, but according to the latest numbers from the state of Florida, only 5 percent of people in that area have permits to do so.
At the other end of spectrum is Nassau County, where 13 percent of adults hold concealed weapons permits -- the highest rate of carry permits in North Florida.
Nassau County resident Melissa Lewis is not surprised. She says half the people she works with can carry guns.
"It just seems nowadays people want to protect themselves," Lewis said. "We're in Nassau County, and there's a lot of old country boys."
Nassau County Sheriff Bill leper says he actually thought the percentage of people with concealed weapon permits would be higher, and he has no problem with the number that do.
"It's not a worry as long as they are carrying it legally," Leeper said, adding that they could be arrested if they carry without a permit.
He says most people when stopped will let deputies know they have a gun.
Anthony Testa, co-owner of Yulee Pawn and Collectibles, sells lots of guns to people in Nassau County. Testa says the more people who carry guns, the more people can deter crime.
"I believe 13 percent is a pretty good number if we are the highest, but I would like to beat that number," Testa said.
The next highest rate of concealed carry in Northeast Florida is 12 percent in Clay County, Followed by 10 percent in Baker and Flagler counties.
That surprises Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson, who said, "I'm just shocked that it's 10 percent."
Baker thinks that many may not want to pay the $112 fee to get a concealed weapons permit.
In Putnam and in St. Johns County, 9 percent of the people old enough to have a concealed weapons permit do. St. Johns Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan said a large number of people in the area want to carry a gun, but without a permit the weapon must remain at home or locked in their car.
There are 55,822 concealed weapons permits issued in Duval County -- also a rate of 9 percent of the adult population.
Sheriff John Rutherford is glad to see that, saying "I want good people carrying guns because they stop a lot of crime before police can get there."
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