With Florida concealed weapons license (CWL) applications reaching record-high volume in recent months, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), and its Division of Licensing announced at the end of last week they are taking proactive measures to ensure continued strong customer service.
October 2020 saw the highest number of CWL applications in Florida history, with 38,349 new CWL applications received in addition to 8,590 CWL renewal applications. FDACS has received at least 36,000 new CWL applications every month since July 2020, with the department projected to process a record 305,043 new applications and 143,749 renewal applications in 2020. FDACS is currently processing approximately 10,000 CWL applications per week.
In 2019, FDACS received 202,698 new CWL applications, a monthly average of 16,891. In 2018, FDACS received 188,900 new CWL applications, a monthly average of 15,741. Applications typically increase in presidential election years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has likely driven higher application volume.
Review Times: Upon taking office in 2019, Fried prioritized background checks and reducing CWL application review times, which under the prior administration were as high as 88 days for applicants with prior arrests or prosecutions. Under new leadership, the Division of Licensing reduced initial review times by up to 98 percent for new applications. Due to the historic volume of applications, the current review time for applications in verification (those with a criminal history) is 42 days, and applications in processing (those without criminal history) is 43 days.
Customer Service Times: With dramatically increased application volume and increased calls to the Division of Licensing, some customers are experiencing longer than normal wait times for telephone and online chat support. The Division of Licensing offers live telephone, live web chat, and a callback service that allows customers to be called back in the order in which they called. Current average wait times are:
Live Telephone Support: 30 minutes, 18 seconds
Live Online Chat Support: 36 minutes, 38 seconds
Callback: Customers typically receive a call back within 1 hour, 49 minutes
Once in contact with an FDACS customer service agent, most customers are currently served, on average, in 4 minutes, 6 seconds. During the past month, the Division of Licensing assisted 68,605 customers through telephone and online chat.
FDACS is taking several steps to reduce application review times and customer phone and chat wait times. In July, FDACS appointed new section leadership within its Bureau of Support Services and streamlined the intake process for CWL mail-in applications. FDACS has also hired more than 20 additional (OPS) staff for the Division of Licensing call center, mail room, and license issuance to reduce wait times. An additional up to 15 temporary staff will be hired in the coming month to reduce wait times for licensing appointment scheduling. The Division of Licensing has also increased the size of its telephone on-hold queue, in an effort to prevent customers from being disconnected.
“Upon taking office, I assured Floridians that our state’s concealed weapons licensing would become not only more efficient, but more accountable,” said Fried on Friday. “While we’ve reduced initial review times up to 98 percent, we can’t rest on that success. With record-high application volume, we’re processing more than 10,000 concealed weapons license applications each week, but we know increased wait times can be frustrating. That’s why we’re hiring more staff and further streamlining our processes to reduce both application review times and customer service times. And of course, we’re ensuring every applicant gets the full background check required by law.”
“From concealed weapons to security guards to private investigators, our mission is to serve every licensing applicant with speed, accuracy, transparency, and accountability,” said Steve Hurm, the director of the FDACS Division of Licensing. “We’ve made historic strides in reducing review times for concealed weapons licenses under Commissioner Fried’s leadership. Now, facing unprecedented application volume, we’re investing in people and processes to help reduce wait times for licensees and improve customer service.”
Under Chapter 790, Florida Statutes, FDACS oversees the state’s concealed weapons licensing program, which leads the nation with more than 2 million license holders. CWL applicants may apply online, by mail, at participating county tax collector locations, or at an FDACS Division of Licensing regional office. Following closures due to COVID-19, all FDACS regional offices have reopened to the public with new, enhanced safety precautions such as plexiglass barriers at fingerprinting stations, additional cleaning procedures, and text messaging for appointment confirmations, reminders, and check-ins. Customers are seen by appointment only, and masks are required to be worn. Customers may apply online, download forms, or make an appointment by visiting the FDACS concealed weapons license website.