TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After 291 people were improperly issued concealed carry licenses by a previous administration, Florida’s new commissioner of agriculture vowed to fix the program.
While the National Rifle Association initially opposed Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the organization now says it wants to give her a chance.
Both the NRA and Fried are toning down their support for moving the concealed carry licensing program out of the Department of Agriculture.
In a newsletter, former NRA President Marion Hammer said the program should stay put, but called on Fried to focus on fixing "real problems" with the program, warning 1.9 million license holders will be watching.
“There's nothing wrong with saying that you're going to fix things that are wrong and we suspect that she's going to do that. Trying to fix imaginary problems though, that's another thing,” Hammer said.
Hammer says one problem that should be addressed to improve concealed carry permitting is an issue in which people with out of state arrests are blocked from acquiring a permit, even in some cases in which they were never convicted of a crime.
After Fried took office, Hammer had suggested moving the licensing program to the chief financial officer, while Fried supported moving it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“It's irresponsible to just pick it up and move it to another department just because it's a Democrat that's been elected,” Fried said in January.
Fried now says her main priority is to look at recommendations from an internal report and a separate inspector general’s report concerning the licensing program.
The NRA is also supportive of Fried picking Stephen Hurm to head the Division of Licensing.
Hurm is the husband of gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.
“We don't expect to see any abuse of power out of him, nor would we expect that he would allow any,” said Hammer.
While both Fried and Hammer have toned down the rhetoric, Hammer says the two have not been in direct communication.