Did you know that more than 900,000 people hold licenses to carry concealed firearms in Florida? If you are considering joining their ranks, there are two primary considerations : 1) how to obtain a Concealed Weapons License (CWL or CLP), and 2) what to do once you have one.

Obtaining Your Florida CWL

Step 1: Training

While there are exceptions (for former military, etc.), most people must take a course from a qualified professional, such as an NRA-certified trainer. You will need to provide a copy of your training certificate to the State of Florida when applying for your CWL.

Choosing the right course can be confusing. Many opt for the shortest or cheapest class possible, but is that really the best option? Consider this. If you are not properly trained to use a firearm, what good is carrying one?

Honestly evaluate your skill level when choosing a training course. Before applying for a CWL, be certain you understand the inner workings of your firearm, how to safely operate your pistol, how to choose the appropriate ammunition, and how to store both your firearm and ammunition to keep it out of the wrong hands. We recommend the NRA Basic Pistol Course to meet all of these requirements.

Step 2: Apply

Once you have a training certificate, you can send your application to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The process involves fingerprinting and a background check. While you can obtain and send your fingerprints, a photo, and the documentation in separately, we suggest you use Florida’s Fast Track Process.

With this process, you simply contact the Florida Department of Agriculture office closest to you and set up an appointment. During your appointment, you will provide a copy of your training certificate. (Don’t submit the original, as it won’t be returned to you!) You will complete a background questionnaire at a kiosk in the office, and the office staff will take your fingerprints and photo. After checking your identification, the office staff submits all of your paperwork for you, ensuring all documentation is complete before you leave the office.

Step 3: Wait

This is perhaps the most difficult piece to obtaining your CWL. The licensing process can take up to 90 days, during which time you get virtually no feedback. The Florida Department of Agriculture does have an Online Tracking Tool to check the status of CWL applications. Unfortunately, this tool only tells you whether your application is still being processed or has been completed. There is no estimated time for completion given to applicants.

Using Your CWL

Once you receive your CWL in the mail, be sure to carry it on you at all times that you are also carrying your firearm. Just as your driver’s license is proof that you are authorized to drive a vehicle, the CWL is proof that you have passed the training and background requirements to legally possess and conceal a handgun on your person.

Aside from allowing you to carry a firearm, your new CWL gives you another great benefit. You will no longer need to wait three business days to take home a new handgun.

Simply bring your CWL with you to any Florida gun dealer, along with your driver’s license, when you make a new gun purchase. This will allow the dealer to waive the three day wait, so you can take your new pistol home immediately!

Remember, though, carrying a pistol does not authorize you to acts of vigilantism. Nor should it embolden you to take unnecessary risks, such as walking alone in dangerous neighborhoods. Carrying a firearm brings with it a great level of responsibility, including the ability to determine when to act and when to step away from danger. The only fight you are sure to survive is the one you avoid. Be prepared and stay safe!