Gov. Ron DeSantis reaffirmed his support for an open carry law for firearms, which supporters call “constitutional carry,” and predicted the Florida Legislature “will get it done.”
“I can’t tell you if it’s going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill,” said the Republican governor during a press conference in Friday in rural Levy County to talk about a separate issue— local infrastructure funding.
BACKROUND: Momentum is building toward a change in Florida on “constitutional carry.” In February, speaking at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, DeSantis told an audience he expected the GOP-majority Legislature to address the issue in a special session this year.
On April 1, he repeated his backing of the change before supporters in Eagle Lake. He also talked about gun laws during a news conference March 29 in Tallahassee. Florida Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson has said he would vote to pass a bill.
This year, the Georgia Legislature became the 25th state to pass “constitutional carry,” according to the National Rifle Association, which has lobbied for it for decades.
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SUPPORTERS ARGUE: “Half the country now rightfully recognizes the fundamental right to carry a firearm for self-defense as enshrined in our Constitution — as opposed to a government privilege that citizens must ask permission to exercise,” said Jason Ouimet, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, in a recent statement.
OPPONENTS COUNTER: “This is absurd political pandering from the Governor of a state that has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in our country’s history and in nation where we have the highest rates of gun violence in the world,” said Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running for her party’s gubernatorial primary nomination to run against DeSantis in November. “It’s an insult the memories and families of every victim of gun violence. We should be passing laws to prevent gun violence and working to fix our state’s affordable housing crisis, not creating chaos to score political points.”
Fried’s reference was about two of the nation’s worst mass shootings. On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 50 people and injuring 53 people. The gunman was killed by police. On February 14, 2018, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student murdered 17 people in Parkland, Fla. The gunman was convicted and a jury is being chosen in Broward County to decide whether he receives the death sentence.
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WHAT’S NEXT? It’s unlikely the Florida Legislature could take up a “constitutional carry” bill when it meets for a special session between May 23 and May 27. It’s supposed to focus on addressing the state’s skyrocketing property insurance rates. But in the last special session in April to approve DeSantis’s new redistricting maps, lawmakers did take up and pass a bill to strip Disney’s ability to self-govern by eliminating the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: Tell your state elected officials your position on “constitutional carry.” Click here to find your Florida House representative or click here to find your Florida Senate representative. You can email them through their legislative websites with your comments on the issue.