POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A surge in concealed weapons license requests has caused a major backlog in Polk County.

This fiscal year, from July 2020 – July 2021, is on track to see a 45 percent spike in new concealed weapon licenses, according to Tax Collector Joe Tedder.

“You have an increase across the board. You have an increase of all members of society. They’re looking to protect their property,” said Al Delatorre, owner of Guns Galore in Lakeland.

Delatorre has watched the ups and downs of the firearms industry for decades. He knows the signs of a surge and it’s happening this year.

“They’re wanting to get ready for, if they have to, they’ll protect themselves. I think most people are concerned about what rights they have and what responsibilities they have and that’s what we promote in our safety course,” he said.

People take the safety course at shops like his and then head to a Polk County Tax Collector’s Office, in Lakeland and Lake Wales, for their concealed weapons permit appointment.

They fill out an application and have their fingerprints and photograph taken.

That information is sent to the Florida Department of Agriculture for a background check and the license is processed.

“We’ve never seen a dramatic increase like this ever before,” said Tedder.

Appointments are delayed by months.

The way Tedder describes it, 2020 offered a domino effect of trouble for the system.

“About two months after we were shut down because of COVID, we got hit with a computer virus that shut us down for about two more weeks,” he explained.

That was followed by civil unrest across the country and a divisive election.

The county is on track to process 4,200 more permit applications than average.

“We have gone from people waiting about 2 weeks to now people waiting 60 days to get an appointment even though we have doubled the amount of appointment slots,” said Tedder.

Tedder is working on building a third office in northeast Polk County to increase capacity for concealed weapons permits appointments.