GOP lawmakers line up sights to pass permitless carry bill

Concealed Carry

Republican Florida lawmakers Wednesday heard eight amendments from their Democratic colleagues aimed at reducing the potential negative impacts of a bill that would allow most Floridians to carry concealed firearms without a license.

One by one, they shot them down.

The next vote on the bill will be the last.

The bill (HB 543) is titled “Public Safety.” It would remove Florida’s current requirement for gun owners to obtain a concealed firearm license. In doing that, it would also remove the need for fingerprinting, firearm safety training and a $97 fee for first-time concealed carry applicants.

It has several other provisions, including the creation of a standardized process for handling threatening student behavior, an online threat-reporting portal and more allowances for schools and private school employees to carry concealed guns on campus.

It also establishes a new program placing gun-sniffing dogs at certain K-12 schools.


Tampa Republican Sen. Jay Collins, a former Green Beret and the sponsor of the measure’s Senate analogue (SB 150), which he tabled in favor of the version that cleared the House Friday, called the bill a “robust public safety package.” Later, when asking his fellow Senators to reject the amendments — most targeting public safety — he characterized the bill as “very narrow” and “focused solely on the permit.”

HB 543 is all but certain to become law. There are GOP supermajorities in both state legislative chambers. Gov. Ron DeSantis has committed to signing it, and it appears the bill is now in its final form.

Republican Senators voted “no” in unison against one amendment by Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book of Davie that would only have created tax exemptions for the sale of a firearm safe, lockbox or trigger lock.

“I mean hell, if we’re going to do a tax rebate on gas stoves, we should (do it for the sake of) gun safety and … make a tax exemption for these life-saving products,” said Boca Raton Sen. Tina Polsky, who spoke on behalf of several of her Democratic colleagues’ suggested changes to the measure.

They similarly voted against an amendment Polsky proffered to limit the number of guns a person could carry at a time to one and cap the bullets they could possess to 16.

Other proposed changes — including an amendment by Miami Gardens Sen. Shevrin Jones that would create a “Community Violence Task Force” and two from Boynton Beach Sen. Lori Berman mandating that all gun sales go through licensed gun dealers and mandating training requirements prior to the concealed carry of a gun — died too.

“We are letting people walk around with guns that are locked and loaded with zero training,” Berman said. “Let’s make sure that when people are walking around with lethal weapons that they know how to use them properly.”

Miami Sen. Jason Pizzo, a former state prosecutor, provided both the most confrontational amendment and the most incisive criticism of the bill, which Republican Reps. Chuck Brannan and Bobby Payne carried through the House.

Pizzo’s amendment, filed Tuesday, would simply allow concealed firearms to also be carried the halls and committee rooms of the Florida Legislature.

“When this bill passes — and it will — there will be additional guns in Publix, where my wife and kids are, and yet there won’t be one here, and that’s hypocrisy or irony or both,” he said.

“Let them carry here, in this Thunderdome of freedom.”

Collins commended Pizzo’s artful one-liner — “Thunderdome of freedom is a great line,” he said — but asked the chamber to vote against the amendment.

“Good for thee but not for me,” Pizzo responded. “You will not allow gun rights advocates or gun control advocates to sit in this room (while carrying) a firearm. That means you don’t believe in what you’re selling. That means you have no authentic, true intention of passing something that you think really ascribes to these aspirations of freedom and law-abiding citizens, and Sen. Collins, you know it, man. You know this is incredibly hypocritical.”

At the conclusion of nearly two hours of debate, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo — whose introduction to the evening’s proceedings included mention of the Monday elementary school shooting in Nashville that killed six, including three 9-year-olds — advanced the measure to a third and final reading by the chamber.

She did not set a date.

HB 543, upon becoming law, would make Florida the 26th state in the country with a permitless or “constitutional” law on its books. The Florida Sheriff’s Association and Florida Police Chiefs Association, along with the NRA and other groups, back the measure.

Recent polling shows the policy is vastly unpopular with Floridians. Two-thirds of residents — including 62% of Republicans — either “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose it.

A September study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found states that relaxed concealed carry regulations saw a 24% increase in firearm-related assaults soon after.

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