It shouldn’t take a devastating shooting at an elementary school in faraway Texas to get Gov. Ron DeSantis to do the right thing. Don’t worry, he hasn’t and he won’t.
Instead of strengthening Florida gun laws, “constitutional carry” remains on his wish list. Under a constitutional carry law, a person who legally owns a firearm may carry it in public, concealed or openly displayed. Registering the firearm, mandatory training and licensing are not required.
DeSantis has been dropping loud hints about constitutional carry since February, when he told an audience at Mar-a-Lago that he expected the Florida Legislature to hold a special session on the issue this year. The Governor long has prioritized playing to the baser interests of his party over the will of the majority of his constituents. But this latest political sop to the far-right fringe may be his worst.
“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,” he said at a press conference last month in rural Levy County.
Florida is already a gun-friendly state. Floridians don’t need another law to make it even easier to put deadly weapons in the wrong hands.
It shouldn’t be hard to defeat constitutional carry in a state where the very words, “Parkland” and “Pulse” are synonymous with gun violence.
Poll after poll after poll shows a majority of Americans favor some forms of gun restriction. Ban on military-style, assault weapons? Check. Implement universal background checks? Yes. Restrict the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines? Sure. Allow family members and/or law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove guns from persons seen as risks to themselves or others? Of course.
Good luck getting any of that enacted, though.
DeSantis, as well as Republicans in Congress, particularly in the U.S. Senate, have stood firm in opposition. Backed — some might say “paid for” — by the gun lobby, these officials have offered thoughts and prayers, talked up the need to address mental health and rein-in social media, while standing firm against measures to address gun proliferation.
Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and now Robb Elementary — after so much carnage, you’d think this time the response would be different. It’s not shaping up that way. Congress remains divided on what steps to take to address school shootings, meaning, most likely, nothing gets done.
For more than 30 years, the National Rifle Association has been pushing constitutional carry, with Georgia being the 25th state to approve a law the association believes allows law-abiding individuals to carry weapons without a government-issued permit. Florida is clearly in the NRA’s sights.
That momentum continues even amid the anguishing details coming out of Uvalde, Texas, where Salvador Ramos used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle to kill 19 children and two teachers at the Robb Elementary. According to authorities, shortly after his 18th birthday this month, Ramos legally purchased the rifle used in the shooting and another one. He had no criminal or mental health history and in Texas you can’t buy a Budweiser at 18 but you’re welcome to build an armory of AR-15’s.
Florida has a gun reform advantage over Texas. After the Parkland shooting in 2018, state lawmakers gave police the ability to seize firearms from anyone deemed a danger to themselves or others. The bill also raised the age requirement to buy a gun from 18 to 21, a provision the NRA still maintains is unconstitutional.
But even as children’s blood has barely dried, after another tragedy that has left so many grieving, gun rights advocates say this is not the time to politicize the issue. Someone should tell that to Gov. DeSantis.